In November 2010, 15 families of survey number 27 in 4th main, OMBR layout, had their houses demolished by the BDA. While the residents had plan sanction copies from village panchayat and a CMC khata, the layout was illegal. They did not own either a BDA or BBMP khata. The residents, mostly senior citizens, had invested their life’s savings in the property. BDA recovered the land saying it was under its jurisdiction. Citizen Matters came to know about this through a letter from the residents. Times of India also reported on this late last year.
This land was a revenue site which did not have BDA approval for layout formation. All over Bangalore, many layouts face the same problem – they pay taxes to BBMP, but they come neither under the BBMP nor under BDA. Because of this, they also suffer lack of basic facilities.
These layouts, also called ‘revenue layouts’, cropped up mostly during the last two decades as the city grew rapidly. Builders started construction in revenue (agricultural) lands without conversion. Revenue lands come under the jurisdiction of BMRDA (Bangalore Metropolitan Regional Development Authority) and pay tax to village panchayats. Village panchayats come under taluk office (Tahsildar), which in turn comes under Deputy Commissioner (DC), Bangalore Urban district.
A grand mess of land, rules and flouting
According to the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, for any land conversion, builder should apply to the Deputy Commissioner (DC), Bangalore Urban. DC notifies BDA about the application; if BDA approves, a layout can be formed under BDA’s jurisdiction. Such layouts get khatas from BDA and facilities like water, power, and roads as per BDA norms. After development they are transferred to the BBMP.
"Most builders randomly started construction in agricultural lands and sold the sites to public after developing minimal facilities. Buyers were not even aware that these layouts were illegal," says K Prathapan, a Bangalore-based lawyer.
For builders, selling these sites was easy as they were registered only as property and not as sites/layouts themselves. While revenue records will be with Tahsildar’s office, the transaction needs to be registered at the sub-registrar’s office only.
Prathapan says, "As long as the stamp duty is paid and the survey numbers are mentioned, a sub-registrar can register any property. Though he is supposed to check and survey these sites before approving these transactions, he will not face any legal action in case of irregularities." With no system to check irregularities, illegal layouts came up in many areas in the city. "Around 4-5 lakhs of such sites exist in Bangalore," Prathapan says.
While these sites remained under panchayats or CMCs initially, they came under BBMP with the expansion of the Palike. Now these layout residents pay taxes to the BBMP, but they do not own a BBMP or BDA khata. Many own only panchayat or CMC khatas. Nor do they pay betterment charges to BBMP. Without betterment charges, BBMP does not provide facilities to these areas.
While BBMP sites are referred to by khata number, Property Identification Number and ward number, BDA properties will have a site number and layout reference. But illegal sites will be recognised only by survey number in documents, like agricultural lands. Also the extent of land for these sites will be measured in acres, while regular residential sites will be measured in square feet.
Residents of some such layouts are now waiting for the implementation of Akrama-Sakrama scheme, even as they have given representations to the government for regularising their property.
Even in a BDA-approved private layout, land can be de-notified by the BDA if it has not been developed according to BDA’s norms. This happens if BDA has given only an NOC (No Objection Certificate) for forming the layout. BDA gives an initial notification for acquiring the land and then a final notification. An NOC (No Objection Certification) can be obtained to ensure that BDA has not already acquired the land for a different purpose. But if norms are violated, land can be taken back before the final notification. Khata is the principal document to establish ownership here.
Then there are cases of misappropriation by government officials and developers. In Whitefield, many houses are yet to get BBMP khatas – the documents of many property owners were lost when they were being transferred from village panchayats to CMC and then to BBMP as the jurisdiction changed. Many residents were asked by the BBMP officers to pay huge sums for khatas. Residents have united to get khatas without bribes through a campaign ‘Khata Without Korruption’, spearheaded by the anti-corruption initiative ipaidabribe.com.
In Hosakerehalli in Girinagar, many people are waiting for allotment of sites though most of them paid for sites about three decades back. The builder Vishwabharathi House Building Co-operative Society sold the plots though BDA did not give approval for forming the layout. After court cases lasting decades, the Supreme Court ordered that sites should be allotted to the buyers.
But the builder allotted sites to new owners ignoring those from whom he had collected money earlier. On buyers’ appeal, High Court later ordered that allotment should be made in the order of payment – those who paid first will be allotted the sites; but irregularities continue. "Sites are being allotted to even minors – they certainly could not have reserved the plots in the 80s," says TM Suryanarayana, who had bought his plot in the 80s and has still not been allotted a site.
In another case in Chattupalya in Kengeri, forged documents are being used to grab sites in a revenue layout. The original owners of the land had given the power of attorney to a realtor in the early 90s, who had sold the sites to individuals. Recently relatives of the original owners gave the power of attorney to another person, who is now said to be grabbing sites from those who had bought the land earlier. Since the layout itself is not BBMP-approved, most residents do not have khatas and are reluctant to file court cases.
There have been initiatives like Sachidananda Nagara Nyayapara Andolana and Khata Against Korruption that helped some communities in solving ownership issues and getting khatas. But such movements have not taken off on a large scale and most citizens find no solution for property-related issues. ⊕