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The Madras High Court has directed that the state government consider levying enhanced tax rates, electricity, water and other charges on the proprietors of illegal constructions, buildings and encroachments. The additional revenue so collected may then be used for financial emergencies, suggests the order passed by a Bench of Justices M Venugopal and S Vaidyanathan.
The order calls for the amendment of Tamil Nadu’s town planning Act and allied enactments so that such punitive measures are incorporated into the law. It states,
“The Government should also think of amending Acts, such as the Tamil Nadu Town and Country Planning Act, 1971, District Municipalities Act and other Enactments that deal with the removal of illegal constructions and encroachments, to the effect that wherever buildings are constructed in violation of the plan, the charges, like electricity, property and water tax, etc., should be collected not less than 5 times (can be extended up to 10 times) at the rate applicable to commercial buildings even to residential houses, so that monies collected in that way could be utilized by the Government and the Government can avoid financial emergency.
Though no Courts can legislate or amend any Act, suggestion for amendment of the Act can be extended to suit the present context and to make the Law simpler.“
The Court proceeded to direct that such punitive consequences should be imposed on violators of building laws from October 2019 onwards. This direction may be followed until the state amends the law as suggested above. Further, any failure by the state to impose such penalties on defaulters would invite contempt action from the Court. In this regard, the order states,
“Till framing of such amended Act / Rules, etc., the Government shall exercise this direction with effect from the second half of the Accounting Year 2019-2020, i.e. from October 2019. If anyone brings out the failure of the authorities in the imposition of 5 times penalty on the defaulters, the Court will itself initiate contempt for the willful and deliberate disobedience of the order of this Court and impose imprisonment other than fine, as the extraordinary situation warrants extraordinary remedial measures.”
The Court was dealing with a contempt petition filed against an irregular construction in Avadi. In 2016, the then First Bench had already passed adverse orders against the illegal building. This week, the Court reiterated that it would not show any leniency in the matter. It directed that appropriate measures be carried out to bring the construction in line with approved plans so as to avoid it being “razed to the ground.”
The Court also ordered that the electricity and water connection be disconnected with immediate effect if the building owners do not bring the construction in line with the plan on time. The Bench added,
“In case of violations, the liability will have to be foisted on the errant persons and unless the Law is strict, there will not be any solution for removal of encroachment and the violators will continue to violate, thereby making the Law abider a laughing stock.
This Court reiterates that the set back violations cannot be regularized by the Authorities.“
Before parting with the order, the Court also made stern observations against the proclivity to cite pending cases in a bid to avoid the legal consequences of building law violations. The Court warned, (illegal constructions)
“Quoting any pendency of litigation before any Authority or Court without any interim order thereon, would invite wrath of this Court. Before parting with the case, this Court makes a relevant mention that of late, the litigants, without scruples / moral principles, are endeavouring to indulge/indulging in Forum Shopping and they act in conjunction with concerned officials, who pass orders in such a nebulous and innocuous manner that they easily approach a Court of Law and obtain an interim order(s) thereby deviating the purpose of removal of encroachment and illegal construction as the case may be.“
Read the Order: