Punjab government's regularisation of unauthorised colonies policy has come under scanner, following its provision to collect "hefty" charges from the residents and colonisers for past over 10 years, thus, in turn contravening existing laws, it is learnt.
Over 50 lakh citizens including a section of the ruling SAD-BJP combine MLAs were living in such unauthorised colonies. A large section of citizens demanded alleged anti-people policy rollback, suggesting government to check mushrooming of such colonies from current financial year instead of forcing them to pay charges from "retrospective" effect. They asked government to issue white paper on how many authorised colonies were developed by its agencies in past 20 years to meet population demand for affordable housing.
The residents living in Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Bathinda, Patiala and Amritsar cities and within a radius of 15 kms from concerned municipal corporation (MC) limits would have to bear the maximum penalty by shelling out Rs. 12,500 per marla, if their colony was developed after August 17, 2007. The penalty is Rs. 6,250 per marla for residents of unauthorised colonies set up before August 17, 2007. The penalty in A, B and C class municipal towns and rest of Punjab ranges from Rs. 1,250 to Rs. 10,000 per marla.
Jalandhar district bar association president and legal luminary Mandeep Singh Sachdev said that under Indian Limitation Act, the government has power to recover dues for a period of three years only. "Besides, section 468 of the criminal procedure code clearly mentioned that limitation period is three years if the offence is punishable with imprisonment ranging from one to three years. As per section 36 of the Punjab Apartment and Property Regulation act, the promoter can face imprisonment up to a maximum of three years. Thus government policy to recover due for past over a decade is in contravention to the existing laws," Sachdev said.
On authorities' argument about compounding the offence after existence of such colonies coming to their knowledge in recent past, Sachdev said that Punjab and Haryana high court had already ruled that it was considered to be in knowledge of the state government as soon as sale deed of a property was registered.
"The government should only charge fee from 2010 onwards. Besides, the regularisation charges should be 1% of the collector rate for residents as well as colonisers. For border and rural areas, charges should be half percent of collector rate," Kultar Singh Jogi, president, Punjab Property Dealers and Colonisers Association, said.
"The plot holders with 100 square yard area and those living in slums should be exempted while condition of constructed area should also be waived off. The promoter must be allowed to submit self attested colony map for verification by the authorities concerned before compounding the offence. In future, there should be single window system to grant colony license in one month," Jogi quipped.
The issue had already taken political overtones, as Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa termed regularisation charges as "zajia tax" of Aurangzeb regime. Bajwa said since government had already been providing basic amenities in majority of these colonies, how could these could now be unauthorised. The Congress has planned to hold protest across the state to garner public support. Though state BJP leadership was hopeful on getting charges reduced drastically, but it was also worried on losing urban vote bank due to such policies, sources said.
Manvesh Sidhu, PUDA's chief administrator, said the FIRs should have been ideally registered against the residents and the colonisers for violating the law. On reminded about compounding the offence, he said the policy was aimed in this direction only and they were entitled to recover "regularisation" charges. "We have consulted legal remembrance and advocate general before notifying the policy," he quipped.