Residents of the apartment complex L&T South City in Puttenahalli, south Bengaluru, have got a stay on BDA auctioning the Civic Amenity (CA) site in their complex. The stay order came on November 11. The residents had filed a writ petition in the High Court after the BDA put up a notice on the 2-acre CA site on October 15 inviting tenders to build a shopping complex. There are already cases going on about ownership of the complex – residents had challenged the relinquishment of 12 acres of the land to BDA.
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The residents’ main contention is that the BDA did not consult them before calling the tenders, even though the declaration suit they had filed in 2009 claiming ownership of the entire 34 acres, is sub-judice. Advocate K Prathapan, who represents residents in the declaration suit, says, "Since the case is that the entire 34 acres belong to the residents, BDA should not have called tenders in this manner."
There are also questions raised on the need for a shopping complex in South City. Residents say that a shopping complex would only benefit the third party who gets the tender.
"There are enough shopping complexes nearby and access to the apartment is a problem already. A post office or playground would benefit the public. BDA should have made the decision after finding out about the needs of residents in the neighbourhood," says R Rajagopalan, Vice President of SUGRUHA (South City Group Housing Apartment Owners’ Association). Though BDA issued the tender notice on September 17, the residents came to know about it only when the notice was put upon the site on October 15.
While the BDA Act (1976) defines CA as including markets, banks, police stations, recreation centres, centre for cultural activities etc., the BDA seems to be focusing primarily on developing shopping centres in sites across the city. In the notice, in addition to the proposed cost and time for completion of the South City project, BDA also mentions that available sites in the city will be developed by providing "retail outlets, supermarkets, restaurants, food courts, multiplexes, exhibition halls, offices and related facilities" on PPP mode on the basis of parameters fixed by BDA.
On the behest of residents, the BDA held a meeting to discuss the issue. "We said that the declaration suit was sub-judice; BDA officials responded that the court has not given any interim order and hence ownership continues to be with BDA", says Rajagopalan.
SUGRUHA filed a writ petition challenging the tenders in November first week. The contention was that the tenders would lead to commercialisation of the area and would not benefit the residents. Prathapan says, "Residential complexes are different from layouts, where all amenities are fully public. In residential complexes CA sites are supposed to benefit residents first, though public can also use it. Also BDA gives long-term leases and residents won’t have any control over the site."
Rajagopalan also points to a clause in the CDP-2015 (Comprehensive Development Plan) which says that in residential development plans, the builder, L&T in this case, is supposed to develop the CA site and hand it over to the local resident welfare association as determined by the BDA. "Here the builder has only relinquished the land and BDA is leasing it out. Moreover the definition of CA, local resident welfare association and the mode of handing over the site, are not clearly laid out in the rules," he says.
BDA Town Planning Department’s Joint Director, Narayan Gowda however says that the complex was approved as per the 1995-CDP, and according to that version of CDP, the builder does not have to develop the CA site. "The site has to only be relinquished to BDA, after which BDA will have full ownership. Hence residents need not be consulted on the auctioning procedures. Also, markets are considered a civic amenity, so a shopping complex can be allowed," he says.
Prathapan says that there were many irregularities in the original sanctioning of the complex in ’96. "The sanction plan itself was changed many times. In the declaration suit, we have claimed that the approvals made then – including the work order relinquishing the CA site – should be void. The new case challenges the way in which BDA has been dealing with CA sites in residential complexes." ⊕