Cabinet clears policy on illegal structures in capital cities, Katra

*Major violations of land use, building laws to face demolition
Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Apr 28: State Cabinet, which met under the chairpersonship of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti here this morning, approved policy on illegal structures in twin capital cities and holy town of Katra. In the policy, ceiling has been fixed for regularization of such structures after imposing hefty penalty on the violators while as major violations of land use and building bye-laws will face demolition.
The issue of illegal structures in Jammu and Srinagar cities and holy town of Katra was decided by the Division Bench of State High Court vide its order dated December 31, 2013 with the directions for sealing and demolition of those structures that had come up in violation of Master Plans and building bye-laws.
However, keeping in view repercussions of implementation of the High Court directions the Government had in the Budget Session of 2014 brought a legislation titled Jammu and Kashmir Civic Laws (Special Provisions) Act, which was subsequently passed by the Legislature. Through this Act, moratorium was imposed on the action against illegal structures for one year in order to pave the way for formulation of policy on the issue by the Housing and Urban Development Department.
Because of dilly-dallying approach in formulation of policy, the applicability of the Act had to be extended several times and it was in vogue till March 31, 2017.
Today, the Cabinet discussed and approved the proposal of the Housing and Urban Development Department regarding amendment in the J&K Civic Laws (Special Provisions) Act in order to bring all those illegal structures which have come up till December 31, 2016 under its purview instead of earlier ceiling of March 31, 2014, official sources told EXCELSIOR.
“Now the file will be sent to the Governor N N Vohra for promulgation of Ordinance as Legislature is not in session”, sources said, adding the Cabinet also approved the policy on illegal structures, which will be made applicable after issuance of notification by the Housing and Urban Development Department following promulgation of Ordinance by the Governor.
They informed that only two months time from the date of issuance of notification will be given to the owners of illegal structures to avail the benefit of the policy and the whole process will be completed within a period of one year.
Highlighting some key features of the policy, sources said that some structures like industrial units in residential areas and encroachments of road and lanes besides areas falling under the purview of Heritage Conservation Act and Wildlife Act have been kept out of the purview of the policy and will be demolished at any cost.
About structures which have been raised as per the building bye-laws but formal permission has not been obtained from the concerned authorities, sources said that such structures will be regularized after obtaining building permission fee as well as penalty, which would be four times of the building permission fee.
About violations of building bye-laws, sources said that only 50% of such violations will be regularized after obtaining penalty from the violators and by enforcing rectification wherever feasible. Violations beyond 50% will be demolished through the Enforcement Wing of respective agencies.
Similarly, only 25% of the land use violations will be regularized after charging hefty penalty from the violators while as remaining violations will be demolished, sources informed, adding the Housing and Urban Development Department has worked out penalty by keeping different aspects in mind so as to ensure that policy generates huge revenue while effecting regularization of structures.
Stating that policy will be one time exception, sources said, “under any circumstance this policy will not be extended and in future all the constructions will be governed strictly by the Master Plan, building laws and bye-laws”, adding “the Housing and Urban Development Department has also worked out a mechanism to ensure that no officer or official turns blind eye towards the violations and will face the music for conniving with the violators”.
The Master Plans for Jammu and holy town of Katra have already been prepared and notified while as Master Plan for Srinagar city was at last stage of completion.
It is pertinent to mention here that EXCELSIOR in its today’s edition has exclusively highlighted that Cabinet was going to amend J&K Civic Laws (Special Provisions) Act and approve policy on illegal structures.

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