Residents of Sachidananda Nagara layout in Rajarajeswari Nagar a far from a solution to their khata woes. After two Gandhigiri protests and several promises from the BBMP Commissioner H Siddaiah himself, the latest roadblock in their struggle is a letter sent by former Mayor S K Nataraj asking BBMP to not issue khatas to residents. The letter was sent by the former Mayor on April 26, two days before he quit office. The new Mayor was elected on April 29.
This is the first time Nataraj is getting involved in the issue. He raises the same issues that were raised by BBMP offcials time and again, though the issue was settled in court in 2005. The original issue was that the builder of the layout did not have the authority to convert the agricultural land for residential purpose, as per Section 79 (A) and 79 (B) of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961.
The case was settled in 2005 by the Additional City Civil and Sessions Court. This was later upheld by the High Court also in 2006, when BBMP challenged the order. Another petition filed by BBMP challenging the order in Supreme Court in 2010, was rejected by the court. Lokayukta had also issed orders to BBMP in 2010 to enforce the court order and issue khatas to all residents.
However, Nataraj’s letter cites violation of the Act and says that an enquiry was done and the layout would be confiscated by BBMP as per Section 83 of Land Reforms Act. It also says that all khata registrations done so far would be void. Some 200 plot owners – of the total 800 – have received khatas so far.
The letter was addressed to the Commissioner and a copy sent to K M Ramachandran, Additional Commissioner (AC, Raja Rajeshwari Nagar). But residents came to know about the letter only on May 2 when they went to collect their khatas in the RR Nagar office. The AC had asked them to collect khatas on that day. This was due to the gandhigiri protest that residents had held at the Commissioner’s office on April 25. The Commissioner had then assured them that there were no legal hassles and khatas and plan sanctions will be issued soon.
Interestingly, breaking with convention, Nataraj’s letter has been countersigned only by the AC. Commissioner Siddaiah has not countersigned it. Normally, a BBMP Commissioner would have countersigned such a letter before sending it on to the zonal AC.
Around 150 residents went to the RR Nagar office on May 2. "After a long wait, AC informed us about the Mayor’s letter and showed it to us. It was all verbal. There was no written order from the Commissioner to stop issuing khatas," says Shankara Prasad, who is leading the campaign for khatas.
The AC instead gave a written statement saying that khatas could not be issued as there were some problems, without mentioning what the problems were. It also refers to the mayor’s letter and an internal memo sent by the Commissioner in February saying that betterment charges for the layout are to be decided. It does not explain as to how these letters are connected with issue of khatas.
On Citizen Matters‘ enquiry, Nataraj said that there were problems relating to land ownership. On mentioning that the issue has already been settled in courts, Nataraj refused to comment further. Commissioner Siddaiah could not be reached for comment.
Before the no-bribe movement had taken shape last year, the AC had already given khatas to 80 residents in June 2010. This was the time when the first group of residents were paying bribes between Rs.50000-100,000 per khata. Citizen Matters had reported on this last year. Nataraj was the mayor then too, but he had not asked for issue of khatas to be stopped then.
Following Nataraj’s letter, residents wrote to Sharadamma and Nataraj. While they explained the issues with the letter to Nataraj, they also submitted a memorandum to Sharadamma to withdraw the letter. There has been no response from either of them, says Prasad.
Since then layout residents have filed a fresh case with Lokayukta on May 20. The case is against Nataraj, current mayor Sharadamma, Siddaiah and Ramachandran for misuse of power, interference in BBMP administration, disobedience of SC and Lokayukta orders. It says that BBMP officials were blindly following Nataraj’s instructions without going into the merits and implications of his letter.
The petition also mentions that though the letter was addressed to Commissioner, it was sent directly to the AC and that the AC and other officials had countersigned it. "Since the letter is addressed to the Commissioner, he has to enquire about it to the AC and make a decision. No such process was followed here," says Prasad.
Director and Assistant Director of Town Planning at RR Nagar have also been included in the case as they have been delaying issuing plan sanctions.
Residents are requesting action against Nataraj and Ramachandran, and to direct Siddaiah and Sharadamma to comply with the court order to issue khatas.
When asked by Citizen Matters on whether residents were considering filing a contempt petition against BBMP authorities in the High Court or Supreme Court, Prasad declined comment. ⊕