25 April 2022 2:51 PM GMT
While hearing a plea filed by social activist, Mr. Juvvadi Sagar Rao, alleging regularisation of unauthorised constructions leading to corruption in concerned government offices as well as environmental concerns, the Supreme Court, on Monday, appointed Senior Advocate, Mr. Gopal Sankaranarayanan as the Amicus Curiae to come up with recommendations that can be made to the State Governments...
While hearing a plea filed by social activist, Mr. Juvvadi Sagar Rao, alleging regularisation of unauthorised constructions leading to corruption in concerned government offices as well as environmental concerns, the Supreme Court, on Monday, appointed Senior Advocate, Mr. Gopal Sankaranarayanan as the Amicus Curiae to come up with recommendations that can be made to the State Governments to stop such regularisation.
"You suggest to the Court what steps to be taken, what recommendation is to be made to the Govts. to take action to stop this."
Advocate, Mr. Sravan Kumar, appearing on behalf of the petitioner apprised the Bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and B.R. Gavai that the State Governments have made regularizing illegal layouts a frequent practice. He stated that among other things these unregulated colonies are causing floods. The Bench agreed that such illegal constructions had been a significant cause for the recents floods in Hyderabad, Maharashtra and Kerala.
Justice Rao enquired, "If unauthorised construction is made is there any provision in the Act that enables the authority to relax the provision of the Act and regularise? Is it your case that they do not have the power to regualrise or they should not regularise because people would be affected?"
Mr. Kumar responded, "That my concern is that the end user is being punished. There is no action against the authorities."
Justice Rao stated, "Isn't it a little too vague? You should put before us the questions that arise for consideration…"
On the last occasion, Mr. Kumar had informed the Bench that the State Governments of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were still permitting registration of unregularised colonies.
"What is the provision in the Hyderabad Municipal Corporation?"
The Counsel appearing for the State of Telangana stated that a regularisation scheme was introduced in terms of a newly inserted provision into the relevant statute. The new provision was challenged before the High Court, which had stayed the proceedings subject to the outcome of the present petition. He also highlighted that equities are created in illegal constructions by the time the same comes to the knowledge of the concerned authorities, since there exists no mechanism to check the illegality at the threshold. He submitted -
"That many times the illegal layouts we come to know about when someone starts making construction or makes an application for construction, because sale deeds happen on the title without reference to the Municipal Authorities. The new Telangana laws, both Municipality Act and Gram Panchayat Act have a provision now that if the Commission of the Municipality or Gram Panchayat notifies the registration authority that a particular layout is illegal or a building is illegal and they are trying to sell it, the authority is empowered to inform the Sub-Registrar and they are ordained not to register the properties. Again, a writ petition has been filed challenging this new provision. A Division Bench of the Hyderabad High Court has struck down this Memo…an SLP is filed against that order which is pending before this Court."
He emphasised that once equities are created it becomes difficult to take a stringent action against the illegal constructions.
"Most of the time if any stringent action is initiated for several purchasers…this might be the only plot/flat he has purchased, without being fully aware. A balanced approach…to be taken, but we need to take a more proactive stance. We have to ensure those who develop layouts/construct buildings should not be able to transfer plots to purchasers, then equities come in and the Court has to look at these people."
Justice Rao referred to the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai And Ors. v. M/s. Sunbeam High Tech Developers Private Ltd. Civil Appeal No. 7627 of 2019, wherein the Apex Court had noted that action needs to be taken at the initial stage and encouraged the municipal authorities of all the cities in Maharashtra to resort to Geo Mapping. The relevant portion of the said judgment is as under -
"22. All over the country we find that when people raise illegal constructions it is claimed that the said construction has been existing for long. The answer is to get Geomapping done. The relevant technology is Geographic Information System (GIS). If on Google Maps one can get a road view, we see no reason as to why this technology cannot be used by the municipal corporations. At the first stage we direct that all the cities in Maharashtra where the population is 50 lakhs or more the municipal authorities will get Geomapping done not only of the municipal areas but also of areas 10 Kms. from the outer boundary. This can be done by satellite, drones or vehicles. Once one has the whole city geomapped it would be easy to control illegal constructions. We further direct the State of Maharashtra to ensure that sufficient funds are made available to the municipal corporations concerned and this exercise should be completed within a period of one year from the date of this order."
Referring to illegal constructions as a cause of the floods in Hyderabad and Kerala in the recent past, Justice Rao stated -
"Mushrooming of all these illegal colonies in almost all cities of this country, the consequences are so drastic…Unless there are some comprehensive action plans by State Governments as to how they would prevent these colonies from coming up. One of the suggestions is the registration to be stopped so that people cannot claim equities. We will have to find some way for State Governments to act on this. This is a menace to urban development."
The Bench noted -
"Gopal Sankaranarayanan, Ld. Senior Advocate, is requested to assist this court as Amicus Curiae on behalf of the Petitioner. The office is directed to furnish copies of the entire record to him, who is requested to submit his suggestions within a period of 2 weeks…The Ld. Amicus is permitted to prepare a questionnaire and communicate the same to State Govts./UTs for their response."
Case Title: Juvvadi Sagar Rao v. Union of India W.P.(C) No. 1236 of 2020