Is Akrama-Sakrama A Setback for Law-abiding Citizens?

Akrama-Sakrama is the popular term used to describe the ‘Regularization of Unauthorized Development and Constructions’ bill of the Karnataka Government. The bill was proposed with the intention to legalize the illegal. It aims to regularize unauthorized or illegal developments and constructions in urban areas. Since its inception, several ruling governments have worked towards the implementation of the bill, but have not been successful in implementing this resolution in full force.

Origin of Akrama-Sakrama

About a decade back the Government of Karnataka felt the need to enact a special resolution to curb the practice of occupying illegal land and constructions in unapproved areas. In September 2007 the Government came out with the Akrama-Sakrama bill that proposed the regularization of unauthorized constructions in the urban areas of the state, including the Bangalore city which is believed to contain the maximum number of such illegal structures. But the Akrama-Sakrama scheme has not been able to achieve one-time regularization of urban building violations even after the efforts put forwarded by three governments, seven years and five chief ministers.

Challenges associated with the implementation of Akrama-Sakrama

Akrama-Sakrama bill has been one of the most controversial and misunderstood schemes of the Karnataka Government. Since 2007 successive governments have struggled to bring the resolution into action but with very little success.

In 2007, the Janata Dal (S) – Bharatiya Janata Party government made a little progress on the bill. They initiated Karnataka Town and Country Planning (KTCP) and other amendments. During the period from September 15 to December 14, 2007, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) also launched some rules to regularize four types of irregularities:

  • Plots in unauthorized layout or sub-divided land
  • Buildings or constructions with violation in the use of land
  • Set back violation (up to 50 per cent for residential and 25 per cent for commercial)
  • Floor area violation

But there was strong opposition from house owners of illegal structures regarding the implementation of these rules. The house owners petitioned in the High-court questioning about their right for self-protection, legitimacy of implementation of the bill and the exorbitant fees fixed by the authorities for regularization. This caused the government to put the bill on hold just after a few months of its initiation. The opposition and court petitions also made the BBMP to take note of the people’s demands.  This forced BBMP to refund approximately Rs. 28 crores collected from about 4000 applicants.

After the BJP government came into power in Karnataka in 2008 it tried to revive the scheme. During its tenure from 2008 to 2010 the BJP government proposed to execute the bill by re-launching it and reducing the regularization charges by 50%. But both the proposals were rejected by H.R. Bhardwaj, the honorable Governor of Karnataka. The ground for rejection was the fact that the High Court had yet not resolved the challenges to the 2007 amendment proposed by the then government. Since then not much has happened regarding the re-launching of the Akrama-Sakrama bill.

The governor’s approval of Akrama-Sakrama

After a delay of more than three years the governor of Karnataka has finally approved the controversial scheme but with certain proposed changes to it. The proposed remarkable changes include reframing the existing rules by the government before the bill is implemented, drafting the time-frame without keeping any provision for extension and ensuring that the scheme does not benefit the real-estate mafia. He also suggested that the government desist from regularization of residential properties with a deviation of more than 50% and commercial properties with 25% violation. The governor further directed the government not to allow the conversion of residential buildings into fully commercial buildings under any pretext.

The present government’s stand on Akrama-Sakrama

The present Congress government is all set to bring back the scheme into force with a new ordinace. The government believes that the scheme will help in generation of Rs. 5000 crore revenue from property taxes. The government says that the money can be used for the development of towns and cities including the capital city of Bengaluru.

Public opinion regarding Akrama-Sakrama

The confusion and the mistrust among the people regarding the bill still exist. The public are divided in their opinion regarding the usefulness of Akrama-Sakrama.

A section of the people believes that bringing back the bill into effect will benefit both the people and the authorities. They see it as a great chance to pay a one-time penalty and obtain regularization for their properties. The others feel that the bill is designed to favor the land mafias and ignore the plight of the common man.

Opinion of the experts about Akrama-Sakrama

Urban experts are of the opinion that a scam is brewing under the eye-wash of legalizing the scheme. Their question is regarding the government’s hurried approach in implementing the bill with an ordinance and without a debate, either in public forum or in the Assembly. Also, legal experts opine that the government is spreading wrong signal by letting off the official machinery in the civic agencies that were responsible for the violations in the first place.

The government’s claim of generating huge revenue after the full implementation of the bill has also not found many supporters. Experts feel that many violators will not come forward as they know that there is no enforcement regime in place. Moreover, the government cannot regularize all unlawful constructions without the consent of the residents of such buildings.

Experts also feel that one-time regularization of property violations will not check such activities in the future. As proof of their claim they say that in comparison to 2007 the number of violations has multiplied many times in the present date.

The government is slated to come up with fresh ordinance fixing December 2013 as the cut-off date for the regularization of properties. Urban experts feel that the move will give violators more time to increase their unlawful activities and take advantage of the scheme.

Why violations of construction rules must be strictly curbed

Violations of construction rules for buildings and structures in the city does not affect only the rule book, it affects human lives and their safety. Irregularities have resulted in loss of lives time and again. Some of the major tragedies in Karnataka in the last few years resulting from gross violation of property rules are stated below:

August 2013: Three labourers lost their lives and 11 were injured when the centering built for concrete layer at a wedding hall under construction crumbled down in Kommaghatta in Kengeri Satellite Town. The building plan was not approved by the authorities.

August 2013: 4 labourers died and 20 were left injured when an under-construction building collapsed in Someshwara Layout in Jayanagar 1st Block. The reason for the tragedy was sub-standard work and use of spurious materials. BBMP had given permission for the construction of two floors while the contractor had built seven floors at the venue.

July 2012: A man lost his life while three girls escaped miraculously after a part of an illegal building which is under-construction collapsed in Garudacharapalya, Mahadevapura.

March 2012: Causing panic among people a five-storey illegal structure in Shantipura Grama, Electronics City Phase II tilted. Almost 70 inhabitants of the PG hostel had to be evacuated immediately.

September 2011: After a gas cylinder from an adjacent marriage hall burst near Bandemata in Kengeri, an illegal under-construction building collapsed causing the death of two workers.

What is the present status of Akrama-Sakrama

There are thousands of applications lying with the authorities that seek regularization of unauthorized buildings and constructions in private properties as per the Regularization Rules. Such applications are pending all over the state of Karnataka. But the government has not come up with any update on the issue. The administration is not clear about the direction in which it is to move. Under such confusions, the public has just the option to wait and watch what the government does ultimately to resolve the matter. But the most important question is when the government will finally start resolving the matter with a firm hand and how.

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