HC asks govt to plan for recovering encroached public land

The Karnataka High Court comprising of a bench of Chief Justice D H Waghela and Justice S N Satyanarayana rapped the government for having no action plan to clear encroachments despite having evidences with them. The Chief Justice accepted on record Namma Bengaluru Foundation’s detailed aide-memoire inter-alia listing out a representative list of large scale encroachments of government lands; the memo enlists details of 13 major encroachments in Bengaluru urban and rural district as mentioned in the JLC and Task Force report.

Namma Bengaluru Foundation’s writ petition filed in public interest seeks the recovery of the land encroached as indicated in the reports submitted by the Joint Legislative Committee of the Legislature of Karnataka and the subsequent Report of the Task Force for Recovery of Public Land. The petition also seeks prosecution of the government officials and private parties responsible for grabbing public lands.

Proceedings of November 18, 2013 hearing:

The High Court reprimanded the government for having no time bound plan to ensure encroachments are cleared. The Advocate General started the proceedings by submitting a memo along with Status Report that detailed the extent of revenue land encroached, recovered, various cases pending in other courts and all other details. The Chief Justice pointed out the errors in the memo submitted by the Advocate General and summarized that if going as per the memo, the total encroached land would add an additional 2 lakh acres than what the reports and petitioners suggest.

List of large scale encroachment of government lands
A. References in the Joint Legislature Committee Report

1. Pattandur Agrahara, Bangalore East Taluk – 1½ acres of tank bed land. (Page 258 Vol.II)
2. BM Kaval, Bangalore South Taluk – 180 acres of government land. (Page 259 Vol.II)
3. Large property in Chamarajpet, endowed to Muzrai Department (Page 259 Vol.II)
4. Encroachment of lands belonging to NIMHANS (Page 259 Vol.II)
5. Uttarahalli Manavarathe Kaval Minor Forest (popularly called Turahalli Forest) grabbing 344 acres of land (Page 259 Vol.II)
6. Encroachments in Bannerghatta National Park (Page 260 Vol.II)
    a. Encroachment of 1099 acres of land by 312 persons
    b. Encroachment of 313 acres of tank bed land by 553 persons
    c. Encroachment of 767 acres in Bannerghatta by 813 persons
7. Binnamangala Manavarathe Kaval / Byyappanahalli – usurpation of 8 acres 8 guntas of land. (Page 273 Vol.II)
8. Occupation of and mortgage of Byrasandra tank bed land in Uttarahalli Hobli of 15 acres 11 guntas by a private developer (Page 275 Vol.II) (Relevant photographs at page 779 Vol. IV)
B. Task Force Report of Mr. Balasubramanian IAS
9. Laughing Waters – occupation of 46 acres of land (Page 520 Vol.III)
10. Joy Ice Cream , Pattandur Agrahara East Taluk – 3 acres 23 guntas (Page 522 Vol.III)
11. Usurpation of 5 acres of land, opposite to Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, allegedly for Cancer Hospital (Page 527 Vol.III)
12. Encroachment of lake in Golla Halli, Anekal Taluk (Page 782 Vol. IV)
13. Illegal constructions in Bangalore East Taluk and illegal Golf Course and Villas in Devanahalli Taluk. (Page 784 Vol.IV).

The Advocate General stated that about 7 lakh acres of the total 11 lakh acres of encroached cultivable land was pending consideration for regularization according to Sections 94A and 94B of the Karnataka Land Revenue Act and regularization of dwelling houses unauthorizedly constructed in government lands as per the newly introduced Section 94C of the Karnataka Land Revenue Act.  Upon hearing the Advocate General, the Chief Justice questioned whether the Government was making encroachments profitable. The Bench questioned if notices were served to the encroachers and why there was no action initiated when all reports and details submitted by the petitioners brought to light encroachments in excess of 30 acres of forest land in Chikmagalur district.

The Former Additional Advocate General for Karnataka, Sajan Poovayya appeared on behalf of the Namma Bengaluru Foundation and took the Court through the large scale encroachments which have been left unattended to by the State Government.  Thereafter, The Namma Bengaluru Foundation filed a detailed aide-memoire inter-alia listing out a representative list of large scale encroachments of government lands. The Hon’ble Court was pleased to take the aide-memoire on record and has directed the State to provide a detailed action plan proposed to be initiated by the State Government for removal of illegal encroachments on government and forest lands.

The Status of the PIL so far

NBF had filed Public interest litigation Writ Petition (Civil) No.67/2013 before the Supreme Court praying for orders and directions for implementation of all recommendations made in the Task Force Report dated 30.06.2011 and JLC Reports dated 14.02.2007 and 26.06.2007. The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that, the issues raised in the petition were indeed grave and directed that, the issues be raised before the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka. As per the directions of SC, NBF has filed a Writ Petition No. 15500/2013 before the High Court of Karnataka. Hearing the petition on the 8th of July 2013, the HC had directed the respondents to file their objections to the petition and also provide details of steps taken by them towards implementation of the Task Force Report.

Given the serious issues that were raised in the petition, the Advocate General appeared for the State and filed a detailed statement indicating that substantial action has been initiated by the State and out of the 33,878 acres of Government Land encroached in Bangalore, an extent of 14,225 acres has already been cleansed of encroachments. 

Further, out of the 11.07 lakh acres of Forest Land under encroachments, 65,958 acres have already been cleansed of encroachments. The Advocate General then prayed that the writ petitions be dismissed, in the light of the action that is being initiated by the State.  However the High Court observed that the said initiated actions stayed put on paper and were not implemented and hence observed that the writ petition will continue to be maintained on board and that the court will monitor progress with regard to implementation of clearing encroachments on ground. The court had also specifically requested Namma Bengaluru Foundation to provide information regarding few cases of encroachments in Bangalore, as a test case for the State to prove its intention to implement the report and rid such properties of encroachments. 

Further to this, Namma Bengaluru Foundation filed a memo containing a representative list of encroachments of government and forest lands in the Bangalore Urban and Rural districts including the encroachments in Bannerghatta National Park. The memo also emphasized on the fact that Karnataka Public Lands Corporation (KPLC) is not adequately staffed and even lacked a full time Managing Director and hence KPLC is unable to achieve the specific objectives for which it was incorporated. The Hon’ble Court has directed KPLC to provide details of the activity undertaken by it including notices issued to encroachers, list of staff on record etc. The Hon’ble Court has directed the State Government to come up with proposals/plan of action on the next date of hearing to remove encroachments in the areas highlighted by NBF in the memo.  The High Court in its previous hearing had reprimanded KPLC for having failed to perform the duties for which it has been incorporated. 

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