Monday, March 25, 2019

Closure Of the Writ Petitions filed by the encroachers at Puttenahalli Lake

In February 2015, 115 (one hundred and fifteen) slum dwellers living on the Puttenahalli Lake Bund area filed writ petitions before the Hon'ble High Court of Karnataka, [Writ Petition Nos. 5073 - 5187 / 2015 (GM-RES),] against the authorities and statutory bodies. In this petition they made the following parties as Respondents: 
Respondent No.1 : Principal Secretary, Revenue Department, Government of Karnataka
Respondent No.2 : Deputy Commissioner, Bengaluru Urban District
Respondent No.3 : Secretary, Karnataka Slum Development Board  
Respondent No.4 : CEO, Lake Development Authority 
Respondent No.5 :  CEO, Zilla Panchayat, Bengaluru 
Respondent No. 6:  Tahsildar, Bengaluru South Taluk. 

For the slum dwellers' relocation and rehabilitation, the Revenue Department had identified land in Bettadasanapura, (about 8 kms from the lake) in Sy.No.20, measuring 2 acres 24 guntas and handed over the same to the Karnataka Slum Development Board

After obtaining written consent from each of the slum dwellers, BBMP agreed to fund the construction of the temporary sheds 10 x 12 feet in size. The Karnataka Slum Development Board agreed to build 1-BHK flats subsequently in the same site. 

However, the slum dwellers not only rejected the alternate land allotted for their relocation, but in July 2018,  during the pendency of the writ petitions in the High Court, they also demolished the temporary sheds (fully constructed and ready for occupancy) - causing a loss of more than Rs.70 lakhs of public money. 

The case of the Slum Dwellers was essentially that they had submitted a representation dated 23.09.2014, to the Government seeking for allotment of sites measuring 20 ft. x 30 ft, to the individual families living on the lake bund area, instead of the sheds constructed by the Karnataka Slum Development Board which they said were too small for their residential purposes. 

In Feb 2019, the Karnataka Slum Development Board filed a contempt petition against the slum dwellers in the same writ petitions, for their illegal acts of demolishing the temporary sheds. 

In March 2016, upon being persuaded, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, (BBMP) impleaded themselves as Respondent No.7 and came on record to oppose the writ petitions. Aggrieved by the long pendency of the writ petitions and lack of tangible progress, we, PNLIT, approached the Hon'ble High Court to seek for speedy adjudication. 

It is with mixed feelings of relief and trepidation that we share the news that on March 7, 2019, the Hon’ble High Court disposed of the Writ Petition Nos. 5073 – 5187 of 2015 (GM- RES)

During the final hearing of the writ petitions, the Karnataka Slum Development Board categorically submitted to the Court that the request of slum dwellers for 20 ft. x 30 ft. sites could not be considered by them under any law. Even the Court recognized the far reaching nature of such a request by persons who are illegally squatting on the lake bund area and who are rejecting the temporary housing which had been made available for their relocation. 

The following observation was made by the Hon'ble High Court in its order dated 07.03.2019 :

"Respondent Nos.1 to 3 shall take a decision on the representations of the petitioners in accordance with law in an expedite manner in any event, not later than twelve weeks from the date of receipt of the certified copy of the order. The petitioners shall not be evicted from the property in question till the decision is taken by respondent Nos.1 to 3.”  

Accordingly, we have submitted a certified copy of the order dated 07.03.2019 to Respondent No.2 (Deputy Commissioner, Bengaluru Urban District). Copies of the same letter and relevant documents have been given to Respondent No.1 (Principal Secretary, Revenue Department, Government of Karnataka), and to Respondent No.3 (Karnataka Slum Development Board). A copy of the order has also been given to Respondent No.7, Commissioner, BBMP.

In this connection, on 22nd March 2019, we met Mr. Parashuram Shinnalkar, Special Deputy Commissioner, and Mr. B. Sadashiva Prabhu, Deputy Secretary, Revenue Department, Govt. of Karnataka. 

On the one hand, we are relieved that after four years the Writ Petition finally has found closure. However, on the ground nothing will change till the three Respondents discuss the matter and resolve it in the best way they deem fit. We have been assured that they will take this issue for consideration in the last week of April 2019 - in view of their added responsibilities with the upcoming elections. Whether the request of the slum dwellers is considered favourably by the Government or not, they have earned protection to stay in the same area for the next twelve weeks, and till they are rehabilitated with basic amenities to an alternate location. 

We sincerely hope that this time the slum dwellers will have the prudence to accept the decision of the Government - whatever that may be - and cooperate with their relocation from the lake bund area, so that the Puttenahalli Lake can be made secure and restored to the fullest extent. 

With best regards,
Usha Rajagopalan
Chairperson, PNLIT

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