University U-turns again, does not want BBMP’s road; High Court rejects plea

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At a testy hearing in the High Court of Karnataka, the University of Agricultural Sciences reversed its position on the BBMP’s link road through its GKVK campus in north Bengaluru. Before a two-judge bench on December 16th, the university’s counsel Nithin Ramesh said the Vice-Chancellor, P G Chengappa, was willing to convene a fresh meeting of the Board of Regents to strike down its earlier approval for the link road, and added that the board’s earlier decision was taken under ‘duress’.

As BBMP claims 70 per cent of the work is completed the High Court orders an expert committee be set up to resolve the matter amicably
Pic: Save GKVK group.

However, the reversal in position by the university did not sit well with the High Court. The bench also did not admit the university’s claim that its research would be impacted if BBMP road was laid through its campus. The bench asked BBMP not undertake any work for two weeks, and posted the case for January 4th.

The case of the proposed link road through the GKVK campus seems to have as many twists and turns as the road itself. Much of the university campus is forestland granted by the forest department to the university in 1968, for research purposes. The two hearings on December 14th and 16th saw two different lawyers representing the university, and taking contrasting positions.

On Monday, December 14th, the main arguments in court revolved around the procedural lapses of BBMP.  Puttegowda, counsel for BBMP pointed out that the university’s governing body, the Board of Regents, at its 336th meeting passed a resolution allowing the road after it was realigned to the edge of the campus and reduced in width (from 30mts to 24mts). The counsel for the university in this particular hearing, Shashidhar also stressed that the road was an existing road that was merely being widened. He noted that the university had given compliance after engineers from BBMP had modified the plans.

The counsel for the petitioners (who have challenged BBMP decision to lay the road) Sunil Yadav, along with one of the petitioners, Leo Saldanha of Environment Support Group, pointed out that BBMP was in contravention with the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act (KTCP act). They argued that BBMP had also not complied with an order passed on March 16th 2009 by the Karnataka High Court directing all planning agencies in the state to ‘strictly follow the provisions of the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act and Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act.’

BBMP insisted that they had complied with the KPT Act and had taken the permission of the Tree Officer, M R Suresh.  This is, however, inconsistent with an earlier statement given by Suresh to Citizen Matters, where he had claimed that the University was exempt from the KPT Act as it was government land and no permissions were needed to cut trees here.

Residents of Vidyaranyapura in North Bangalore objecting to the road construction.
Pic: Bhanu Sridharan

The bench directed BBMP to file an affidavit submitting that they had complied with the order and asked BBMP Commissioner, the Joint Commissioner (Bytarayanapura zone) and the Tree Officer to be present at Court on December 16th 2009. All three officials are respondents in the PIL.

On December 16th though, the hearing took a different course. The university was represented by a new lawyer, Nithin Ramesh. Ramesh stated categorically that there was no existing road that was being widened. This was counter to university’s own position on December 14th. Ramesh also submitted an affidavit from two members of the Board of Regents who had objected to the road. He said that the earlier resolution of approval was passed under duress from former BBMP commissioner Dr Subramanya who had taken over as Principal Secretary of Agriculture. The bench did not accept this change of stance.

The hearing also did not result in a discussion of the High Court’s March 16th order and BBMP’s apparent (techno-legal) violations. The Tree Officer, BBMP commissioner and Joint Commissioner did not make any statements before the court. The bench stressed on the need to move beyond technical aspects of the case (such as the Town Planning Act) and find a practical solution.

At the end of the hearing, the petitioners were ordered to file an affidavit submitting suggestions for an alternative route. The bench also asked both the petitioners and the respondent (BBMP) to submit suggestions for members for an independent expert committee to look into and assess the effect of the road on research projects of the university.

The hearing was adjourned till the  January 4th 2010. ⊕

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About Bhanu Sridharan 12 Articles
Bhanu Sridharan is a Bangalore-based journalist and aspiring filmmaker.

3 Comments

  1. The work progresses merrily. The Court is furnished a ‘fait accompli’. Sandalwood trees amongst others have been lopped off…What a travesty of justice . Our last resort the courts are overburdened and overworked …and then we face the road…This is development Bengaluru..and there is no hope …

  2. Also, it might be noted that all these “independent committees” that the Court regularly convenes, routinely goes to Yellappa Reddy, the only known Environmental expert in this city of premier science and technology facilities. How many committees and probes can Y. Reddy can handle?

  3. Great article. However, a little more in-depth analysis would have exposed more of these incompetent rats. Thanks much.

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