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Sanjeev Verma , Hindustan Times
Chandigarh , July 18, 2013
Looking at the dismal picture painted by municipal corporations of Punjab by allowing rampant unauthorised construction and not even filling 64 vacancies of building inspectors of a total of 66, the Punjab and Haryana high court has summoned the principal secretary, local government, for an explanation.

Taking a serious view of the functioning of the state government authorities, the division bench headed by chief justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said in some of the cases the corporations had issued challans for violations, but the action was not taken to its logical end as even challans issued in 2008 remained unattended for compounding.

The court also slapped a fine of Rs. 7,500 each on the municipal corporations of Jalandhar and Ludhiana for filing vague affidavits not even answering queries put up by the court in July 2012. However, taking note of the affidavit of the special secretary, local government, the court said it accepted about 66 vacant posts of inspectors, but in its view "the affidavit is as vague as it can be" as it did not mention the time in which the vacancies would be filled.

Building inspectors to be recruited

The court further said, "The negligence is of the state government, resulting in rampant unauthorised constructions remaining undetected…even the existing 66 posts, which are inadequate, have remained almost completely unfilled…" The court added that even though it had been informed that junior engineers in the department do not exist, a direction appeared to have been issued to engage their services. "This is complete non-application of mind," said the chief justice.

He remarked that the larger problem of non-detection of unauthorised construction would remain till there are an adequate number of building inspectors.

The court has thus directed to inform it within four weeks how many inspectors were required and within how much time the process of recruitment would be completed, failing which commissioners of all corporations would remain present on the next date of hearing.

Challans issued, compounded

The Jalandhar municipal corporation stated that of the 1,396 challans issued for unauthorised construction since 2008 till date, 677 were yet to be compounded. Through the 719 challans compounded till date, the corporation earned Rs. 1.29 crore.

The municipal corporation, Ludhiana, informed the court that in the past four months, it had recovered Rs. 3.37 crore by compounding 644 challans, while 479 new ones had been issued for unauthorised construction.

The case would now come up for hearing on August 21.