Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Commissioner Manjunath Prasad has said that properties in 110 villages added to BBMP in 2007, which are on B-Khatha list, will be regularised. These properties will be de-linked from the Akrama-Sakrama scheme, on which a public interest litigation is going on in the Supreme Court. It is not clear how many properties will benefit from this, and whether it will be vacant sites alone, or if it will include the built up properties as well.
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The statement comes in the backdrop of the Karnataka government’s move to amend the Karnataka Land Revenue Act, 1964. This will regularise B-Khatha properties, once the owners pay a conversion fee and betterment charges. BBMP has also written to Urban Development Department on the issue, and the proposal is going to be debated in the cabinet.
As of now, there is no A khatha given to these properties, but the Palike continues to collect property tax, by placing them in B register, by means of a process popularly known as B Khatha. And these properties located in the 225 sq km area in question cannot be legally sold, rented out, used to get bank loans, acquire building plan approvals, completion certificates or occupancy certificates, as they do not have the conversion certificates issued by the Deputy Commissioner (Urban) required to make them legal.
A majority of the sites were used for agricultural purposes earlier, and were added to BBMP limits without any official change in land use in 2007. The Akrama Sakrama Scheme introduced in 2014 batted for A-Khatha certificates to be issued to these sites without changing the land-use from agriculture to non agriculture. But that was in general, applicable for all revenue lands including the ones inside the city.
In case of 110 villages, the violations were not intentional because they did not fall under BBMP when the violations happened and there was no process to rectify it, when they were added to the BBMP. BBMP Commissioner Manjunath Prasad, was reported to have said that the High Court of Karnataka while hearing cases pertaining to B Khata, had maintained that once added into the city limits, the question of getting land conversion — from agriculture to non-agriculture — does not arise.
The Akrama Sakrama case is running at the Apex Court, and will decide the fate of properties with disproportionate floor-area ratio, not qualifying for A Khatha certificates in the BBMP’s new proposal.
There is a rider though. The proposal states “building owners who have violated building bylaw norms and don’t have a‘B’ Khata will not be regularized through improvement charges”. Such buildings will have to wait for the implementation of the Akrama-Sakrama scheme, says Times of India.
Citizen activist and property tax consultant D R Prakash is not convinced that BBMP is ready to handle such a task. “B’ khatha was issued to properties of the then CMC (the municipal authority before BBMP was formed) wards, where proper records were not maintained and available. The clear basis on which this conversion will take place has to be explained by the BBMP, before implementing it. Has the BBMP updated its records and on what basis has this been done? Or will it up take the exercise now onwards?” he asks.
Prakash also questions whether this move is just another step by the government to bury the Akrama Sakrama court case pending in the Supreme Court. “What if there is a dual claim of the same property after the scheme is implemented? How will BBMP solve this? When they introduce this conversion process, what steps will be taken by BBMP to prevent middlemen from swindling money from the property owners ?”
Only for revenue sites?
The Akrama Sakrama scheme in 2014 sought to regularise properties on revenue sites without the hassle of conversion from agricultural to non agricultural land. Revenue land is nothing but agriculture land whose land use hasn’t been changed to suit non-agricultural purpose.
A majority of the new layouts are on revenue sites, as it is not easy to purchase land or procure no-objection certificate from the Bengaluru Development Authority, the regulatory authority for land and layouts across Bengaluru. When villagers are unaware that they need a permission from municipality or the BDA to build houses or form layouts on their land, or when they do not want to undergo the process of undergoing land use conversion from agriculture to residential because of the fees involved, it results in B khata properties that are illegal. Sometimes these lands are messed up with legal battles, especially when family properties are sold without full consent or when there is dispute on original ownership.
People purchase revenue sites or properties even with unclear titles, esepcially because it is cheaper than the fully legal properties. When such properties do not have A khata, banks do not give loans. According to Bangalore Mirror, 5 lakh such properties from the 110 villages, and 7 Urban Local Bodies were included in BBMP limits in 2007.
This is not the first time BBMP has attempted conversion. Even going back to 2010, the BBMP hoped to make Rs 800 crore by converting more than 3 lakh properties by charging an improvement cess.
The reason BBMP stopped regularising revenue sites without conversion was to put a stop to land-grabbing and encroachment on government land. The Karnataka Land Revenue (Amendment) Ordinance 2006, approved on December 11 2006, said that a punishment of three years can be awarded to encroachers, and a fine of Rs 5000-Rs 10,000 will be imposed. The ordinance said the same applies to sub-registrars who let people convert their land for non-agricultural purposes without collecting the correct documents or producing false ones. Also, some officials were found to be involved in selling properties without conversion. A year later, the registration of revenue sites continued as usual, adding more and more ‘Akrama’ properties to the list.
According to Prakash, this is not only the case with revenue land. After being converted to non-agricultural land, some properties are still under the B register, as the CMC and village panchayats had poorly maintained records, making it difficult to confirm ownership.