After the episode of a senior government official assaulting an elderly resident of Panduranga Nagar, off Bannerghatta road, near Arekere layout, residents in the area are only more determined to take ahead their fight against illegal constructions. Vijay Kumar Patil, BBMP Additional Director of Town Planning, had assaulted 63-year-old Parameshwar Bhat, Secretary of Panduranga Nagar Residents Welfare Assoiation (RWA), on October 23 at 1 am. The attack is said to be retribution against residents, who had dared to take steps against illegal constructions and against Patil who had sanctioned these buildings.
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Patil was arrested soon after and allowed out on bail the same evening. Following a report submitted by Joint Commissioner (Bommanahalli zone) Shivbasavaiah to the BBMP Commissioner, Patil has been suspended pending a departmental enquiry. The report also recommended transferring Patil back to PWD. Patil, originally a PWD official, had been moved to BBMP on deputation. However, for residents, the ordeal is far from over.
The deputation of Patil to Town Planning Department itself violates a government order which says that town planning positions should be occupied only by officials from the state government’s Department of Town and Country Planning (DTCP). When asked about Patil’s deputation, DTCP Director HB Mukunda declined comment.
According to JP Nagar Police Inspector S K Umesh, the case against Patil is not strong. In the FIR, Patil was charged with assault, use of vulgar language, damage to property and trespassing. Patil’s blood sample has been sent to FSL (Forensic Science Laboratory) and the results are expected to come in three months. “We can prepare the chargesheet without the results also. The only major charge against Patil is trespassing. Assault was also not major, so court will treat this as a minor case only,” Umesh says.
September 24 – Provisional Order (PO) under KMC Act 321 (1) and (2) sent to Bhat saying that his building sanction documents were forged.
October 4 – Confirmatory Order (CO) as per KMC Act 321 (3) on October 4.
October 6 – Bhat responded with a clarification on October 6 saying that all documents were available with the BBMP.
October 14 – Bhat sends copies of all documents.
October 15 – Patil writes back to Bhat saying that original documents should be produced before him by October 20.
October 23 – Hearing on the injunction filed against the CO.
On the early morning of October 23, Patil trespassed into Bhat’s house, threatened demolition, damaged Bhat’s property and assaulted him.
Illegal buildings that the residents have been fighting against, continue to function without any ado. Commercialisation started in this residential area almost two years back, after Patil approved buildings for commercial use stating that the revised CDP (Comprehensive Development Plan), which came into effect in 2007, allowed for commercial buildings to come up along wide roads in residential areas.
The residents complained to the BBMP against buildings in five sites – site numbers 31, 72, 74, 223 and 231 – all of which were sanctioned by Patil. They also filed RTIs to get the details of plan sanction. The violations of the buildings include change of land use without permission, inadequate setbacks and parking spaces, extra construction than was permitted, and lack of occupancy certificate. After the continued complaints of residents, BBMP had sent Provisional Orders (PO) to all five buildings under Section 321 (1) and (2) of the KMC Act.
However, all five buildings managed to get a stay against the order from the Karnataka Appellate Tribunal (KAT). Four of the buildings are already functional; the stay is affecting only one building owner as his building’s construction is not yet complete.
“In the hearings at KAT, the BBMP did not even have a lawyer to contest the case and all respondents got stay. We have now submitted an application to the court to allow us to file cases against the building owners,” says Bhat.
BBMP also failed to respond to the RTIs. The RWA then went to the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC), which then ordered that the documents should be provided. In its October 12 order, KIC said that the BBMP Commissioner should conduct an enquiry into why Patil sanctioned the buildings. It also criticised Patil saying how someone as experienced as Patil could give sanctions to buildings which have obvious violations. The enquiry report is to be submitted on March 22, 2011.
“The larger question is whether commercial buildings can be allowed at all in a purely residential area. In response to an RTI, BDA has informed us that the layout is classified as purely residential,” says RWA’s lawyer V B Shivakumar. If commercial enterprises have to be set up in a residential area, permission should first be obtained from the BDA. The building owners did not submit any application to the BDA and got the permission directly from BBMP. The RWA is going to challenge the commercialisation of the area, violation of CDP and illegal construction of buildings, in its case against the building owners. The demand is that commercial developments should be allowed in some specified area within the layout only, says Shivakumar.
There are three other cases that the residents had filed against some apartment complexes which had flouted building norms as well.
Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on the RWA from the commercial building owners to keep quiet. Two days after Patil’s assault, Rajesh Gowda and Sudhakar Reddy – two building owners against whom the RWA has been protesting – approached RWA Treasurer B N Prakash, proposing a negotiation. Prakash says, “They said they were ready to negotiate. The houses of some RWA members also have slight deviations. They said that if we are proceeding with cases against them, they will see to it that our houses are demolished too.”
The builders have already tried doing this too. A few months back Narasimha Babu, Assistant Executive Engineer (Puttenahalli), issued notices to 60 residents saying that they should produce all documents relating to their houses. Since the residents did not reply, he then sent a PO to 30 residents without enclosing spot inspection reports or details of deviation, as should have been done.
Residents replied to the AEE with the opinion of their lawyer, stating that all plan sanctions have been obtained from CMC Bommanahalli. “I sent the POs after receiving complaints from one of the commercial building owners. The case has been dropped as of now, but we will pursue this later after getting the opinion of our legal cell,” says Babu.
The layout was formed in 1986 by Bank Officers Co-operative Housing Society with approval from Bilekahalli village panchayat. Later it came under CMC Bommanahalli, and many residents obtained khatas from the CMC. There are around 170 houses in the layout, and 100 more vacant plots.
In June, the RWA had refused to accept money from the building owners. Bhat says, “They promised to pay us huge sums towards building an office for the RWA. We discussed this with all residents in our general body meeting, and it was unanimously decided to not accept the money and to continue fighting against illegal constructions.” ⊕