Tuesday, 31 January 2017

GHMC to begin using muscle that it always hid

By Udumula Sudhakar Reddy

The GHMC has been using only sparingly a 2008 amendment to the Hyderabad Municipal Corporation Act that makes constructing unauthorised and illegal buildings and adding extra floors in violation of sanctioned plan, a criminal offence. The violator can be punished with up to three years imprisonment or fine.

GHMC chief city planner S. Devender Reddy now says the civic body will book criminal cases against repeat violators and habitual encroachers under Section 461(4) which will result in the arrest of the accused and put them on trial.

He said, “We had earlier filed criminal complaints and got FIRs issued a few years ago and the same are under trial in the Kukatpally court. There are provisions to book the violators under cognizable sections in Hyderabad Municipal Corporation Act. We are getting FIRs issued now and then. It is getting difficult to get conviction.”

“Henceforth we will invoke Section 461 read with Section 596 of the Act and book repeat violators. For instance we demolished structures on nalas on Monday. If they construct again we will book criminal cases,” Mr Devender Reddy said.

The special chief secretary, municipal administration department, filed an affidavit in High Court on a writ filed in 2015 by one Jaan Mohammed alias Shahi, a victim, against unauthorised construction on Nizamshahi Road, in which he said, “As per  the request of the corporation to treat the acts of unauthorised construction a cognizable offence in 2008, an amendment was made to Section 461 of the GHMC by adding sub-section (4)  and the same shall be read with Section 596.”

The High Court, ruling on the Jaan Mohammed case on May 19, 2016, observed: “It is not clear from the reading of the sub-section which vested discretion to the court” either to sentence the guilty to jail up to three years or to levy fine. The court observed that the corporation was not invoking the penal provision against those indulging in serious violations of sanctioned plans and building regulations.

Justice C.V. Nagarjuna Reddy, who passed the judgement, ruled that the GHMC should take advantage of the provisions of Section 461 (4) of the Act and ensure registration of criminal cases and arrest of the violators, in cases of unauthorised constructions,  constructions without permission and illegal constructions, constructions made in deviation of plans, except in cases of minor deviations.
  • During 2014-15, 865 unauthorised constructions were identified by the town planning department of the GHMC. Only 31 criminal cases were registered since 2008 (when the law was amended) up to 2015.
  • 1,520 cases filed against demolition notices in the civil courts. Interim orders of either injunction or status quo were granted in 1,431 cases.
  • High Court in May 2016 ordered setting up of town planning tribunal, excluding the civil courts’ jurisdiction to prevent proliferation of illegal and unauthorised constructions.
  • High Court ordered the filling up of vacancies in the town planning department to be done in four months from the date of judgement, which was September 19. The same day the city received heavy rainfall leading to flooding in several areas. The Public Service Commission is yet to fill up the posts.
GHMC scouts for sites to dump demolition debris
GHMC officials have begun scouting for places to dump the debris from demolished structures besides seeking methods to reuse the concrete to lay roads.

Much debris is expected to pile up if the demolition drive continues, according to GHMC officials. Till now, the debris was dumped at the Jawaharnagar dump yard or taken away by private parties.

GHMC disaster cell executive engineer R Srinivas Reddy said, “We are checking various areas so that debris can be shifted there in accordance with solid waste management rules. Concrete debris can be recycled and used for laying cement roads in certain localities. The commission has ordered us to work on this.”

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