The Punjab and Haryana high court has directed the Punjab government to file its response to the public interest litigations challenging the state government's August 21 notification for regularising illegal colonies and commercial constructions across the state.
The petitioners, 42 retired army officers and residents of Bhakhra Enclave, Patiala, have mainly sought an explanation from the state government about the rationale of differential composition fee/regularisation charges.
The petitioners had purchased chunks of agricultural land from different owners between 1998 and 2013 and constructed their houses.
When the petitions came up for hearing before the division bench comprising chief justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and justice Augustine George Masih on Wednesday, the state government sought two weeks' time to file its reply. But the high court has also made it clear that no benefit would be available to a person who does not deposit the charges as per the impugned notification within the time prescribed.
The petitioners told the court that under the garb of regularising colonies/plots/houses, the state government, in yet another endeavour to recover from its publicly-known financial deficit, had now introduced an irrational formula for computing regularisation fee. It has been alleged that the notification was unjust and aimed at favouring colonisers and victimising individual plot/house owners by charging exorbitant amounts under the veil of regularisation fee.
The court was informed that neither the Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority (PUDA) nor any other regulatory authority had ever issued any notice to them alleging that their constructions were unauthorised. However, PUDA officials recently visited petitioners' farm houses and informed them to deposit regularisation fee or face penal action.
It has also been alleged that the notification was applicable to the entire state irrespective of the fact as to whether a particular colony/plot/house had ever been declared illegal or unauthorised by any competent authority. The notification states that coercive methods would be adopted to collect money in the garb of harshly computed regularisation fee that would result in the registration of an FIR. It has also been highlighted that the notification does not specify the areas that had been identified as unauthorised.
The case would now come up for hearing on December 9.