23 March 2023 10:30 AM GMT
The Kerala High Court recently directed the State Government to complete the process of constituting the Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC) for Kochi as mandated under Article 243ZE of the Constitution without further delay. A division bench comprising Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Murali Purushothaman while considering a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by natives of...
The Kerala High Court recently directed the State Government to complete the process of constituting the Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC) for Kochi as mandated under Article 243ZE of the Constitution without further delay.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Murali Purushothaman while considering a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by natives of Kochi City, recorded the submission of the Additional Chief Secretary that the setting up of the Metropolitan Planning Committee was already in motion. The court also directed the State to take immediate steps to form the Kochi Metropolitan Development Authority, to ensure proper urban planning for the Kochi Metropolitan area:
“Having given due consideration to the material on record, in particular, the averments that steps have been taken to constitute a Metropolitan Planning Committee for the Metropolitan area of Kochi, as mandated under Article 243ZE, taking note of the length of time, i.e. nearly 2 decades, we direct the Chief Secretary, Secretariat, Thiruvananthapuram, the Additional Chief Secretary to the Government, Local Self Government Department, Thiruvananthapuram, and the Principal Director, Local Self Government Department, respondents 1, 3 and 4 respectively, to finalize the preparation of the process already undertaken and as explained in the foregoing paragraphs of the counter affidavit filed by the 3rd respondent, and constitute the Metropolitan Planning Committee for Kochi, as mandated under Article 243 ZE, and also to take immediate steps for the formation of Kochi Metropolitan Development Authority, for the purpose of implementing, coordinating and supervising the orderly development of Kochi Metropolitan area, within four months from the date of receipt of a copy of this judgment.”
The PIL was filed by two natives of Kochi, aggrieved by the failure of the state government to give effect to Article 243 ZE to the Constitution introduced through the 74th Constitutional amendment despite the lapse of more than 30 years. Article 243 ZE mandates the constitution of a Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC), for preparing a draft development plan for metropolitan areas in India that have a population of more than 10 lakhs.
The plea sought a direction to the state to establish a MPC to ensure that the urban planning of Kochi takes place in an orderly fashion. The petitioners also sought for the establishment of a statutory body called Kochi Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA), ‘for implementing, coordinating, and supervising the orderly development of Kochi region within the Kochi Metropolitan area’ to fulfil the constitutional mandate under Article 243 ZE.
Adv K. R. Deepa appeared for the State, Adv. Jaishankar V. Nair, appeared for the Centre and Advocate Sunil Jacob Jose and Advocate Ajit M.S appeared for the petitioners.
The court took on record, the submissions made by the Additional Chief Secretary in the counter affidavit filed. The state in its affidavit stated that:
“The government is seized of the rapid urbanising nature in and around Kochi as well as other areas, and also of the fact that urban growth necessitates a new approach to the development on account of multiple peculiarities of urbanising populations-the issues arising out of enhanced population density, the pressure on utilities, the load on public infrastructure, the need for climate resilience and adaptability, the need to accommodate transitory population and intensive migration etc. based on which it has been decided to come out with a detailed urban policy.”
In this regard, the state submitted that an expert committee was being constituted for providing inputs for formulating an urban policy.
The state also informed the court that currently, the responsibility of preparing development plans is with the District Planning Committee (DPC) which was also set up under the constitutional mandate under Article 243 ZD.
“The role and functions of the DPC have been developed and finetuned over 26 years of decentralised governance in Kerala. The DPCs have also prepared District Plans as per Government directions through a detailed process of consultation and feedback. The Ernakulam District Plan was finalized and published in 2018 and is available on the website of the State Planning Board.”, it was stated in the Additional Chief Secretary’s affidavit.
The state also submitted that the responsibility envisaged for the Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC) as per the constitution is already being undertaken by the District Planning Committee for the entire district of Ernakulam including the metropolitan area of Kochi. It was further submitted by the State that a comprehensive plan needed to be worked out such that the DPC and MPC can function complementary to each other with no overlap. The state requested some time from the court to put into place a comprehensive urban policy and to perform its constitutional obligation regarding the Metropolitan Planning Committee.
However, the court noting the inordinate delay that had already occurred in the implementation of the plan, gave the State 4 months’ time to comply with its order and made it clear that no application for extension of time would be entertained in the matter.
Case Title: Adv. Richard Rajesh Kumar V State of Kerala
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Ker) 153
Click here to read/download judgment