Raising eyebrows over the validity of enactment of the Punjab Laws (Special Policy) Act, 2013, to regularise illegal colonies, the single-judge bench of the Punjab and Haryana high court has referred the matter to a larger bench to ascertain whether the policy framed within the “avowed object of providing succour to residents of unauthorised colonies actually benefits the colonisers”.
Hearing a petition filed by former Ludhiana municipal councillor Gurdeep Kaur, justice Rajan Gupta observed, “Instead of enacting a law as a safeguard against illegal constructions or unauthorised colonies, the state enacted the Punjab Laws (Special Policy) Act, 2013, to regularise all unauthorised colonies, buildings etc.”
Justice Gupta added, “In the objects and reasons of the policy, it has been stated that a committee of cabinet ministers was constituted pursuant to a representation received by the Punjab Coloniser Association. The committee, thus, formulated a policy for the regularisation of unauthorised colonies, plots and buildings. It, thus, needs to be examined whether the enactment bears any rational nexus to the object sought to be achieved…”
After going through the state government’s replies, the court found that thousands of illegal colonies/structures had been regularised till the deadline prescribed in the act (April 16, 2014).
The court further said that whether the enactment was a “colourable piece of legislation” needed to be considered in the light of various judgments rendered by the apex court.
THE ACT AND POLICY
The Punjab Laws (Special Policy) Act, 2013, was notified on April 12, 2013, and the policy under question on August 21, 2013, to provide basic facilities to residents of unauthorised colonies and for compounding offences committed as a result of the creation of unauthorised colonies and the erection of buildings thereon.
The high court had in its May 29 order made it clear to the state government that the regularisation of unauthorised colonies and buildings in the light of its new policy would be subject to the decision of the pending writ petition.
The Punjab Apartments and Regulations Act, 1995, envisages criminal prosecution in case any unauthorised colony/structure is raised.
The petitioner, Gurdeep Kaur, had moved the high court in 2012, seeking the quashing of the order dated February 14, 2012, passed by the department of the local government, whereby four shops constructed by her at Dugri village in Ludhiana district were found to be illegal, the construction whereof could not be compounded. Since the case was pending before the high court, the petitioner in the meantime was able to reap the benefit of the policy enacted under the 2013 act, wherein her shops were also regularised.