The Congress government in Himachal Pradesh has applied the brakes on tabling a controversial bill, a decision that would enable the regularisation of over 20,000 illegal constructions.Official sources said Monday the cabinet last week decided not to table the Town and Country Planning (amendment) Bill in the upcoming winter session of the assembly, beginning Dec 5.The bill would now be tabled in the budget session next year, a government functionary told IANS."The decision to delay the tabling of the bill is just to give enough time to certain builders and influential people to complete the illegal constructions and then it get it legalised with the coming of the new act," an official of the state's town and country planning department told IANS.
The government so far has not specified any cutoff date to get illegal constructions regularised by paying a composition fee. This gives an ample time to the violators to go on with their constructions, said the official."When the illegal structures were raised by certain influential people, including the politicians, why action was not taken at that time," said a senior Congress leader, who wished not to be named."Successive governments have treated the act as a populist measure. Several amendments have been carried out in the existing act to benefit the defaulters," he added.The government in August brought an ordinance, the Himachal Pradesh Town and Country Planning Act of 1977 (amendment) Ordinance 2014, which would enable the violators to pay prescribed fees to get the buildings, both commercial and residential, regularised.
But fearing a backlash, the government withdrew the ordinance a month later. The ordinance possessed certain legal inadequacies as well.
Justifying the delay in tabling the bill to amend the Himachal Pradesh Town and Country Planning Act of 1977, Urban Development Minister Sudhir Sharma told IANS the government is awaiting the opinion of the National Green Tribunal, a judicial body, with regard to providing relaxations to plot owners in the green belt in Shimla town."We are taking legal view and need more time to bring amendments to the existing act. But we have already conducted video recording of the existing violations," he said.
The government Feb 19 introduced the Himachal Pradesh Town and Country Planning (Amendment) Bill, 2014, in the assembly.At that time, the urban development minister said the amendment was necessitated as the "high court had taken a serious notice of the grim situation and asked the government not to regularise the total unauthorised constructions"."Considering this and the practice followed in other metropolitan cities to deal with the illegal constructions, it has been considered more appropriate to make a special provision in the Himachal Pradesh Town and Country Planning Act of 1977 for a specific period of one year as a one-time exemption by charging composition fee," he had said.The minister had said demolition of such large-scale, unauthorised constructions was neither feasible nor practical.Later, expecting a backlash from the opposition BJP, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh decided not to go ahead with it and referred the bill to a committee.