Want to buy a house in Salt Lake' Yes.
Can one buy a house in Salt Lake' No, says the rule book.
Does that stop anybody from possessing a house in Salt Lake' No.
Whenever there’s a loop in the law, there’s a hole, too.
The Salt Lake Land Distribution Act does not allow transfer of property, as plot-holders are lessees of the land for 99 years and have no right to hand it over to any “outsider”.
But that has not come in the way of illegal transfer of properties in the state’s showpiece township.
Enough for the high court to take notice and set a three-week deadline for a report on the number of illegal property transfers in Salt Lake.
As such, transfer is an open secret in the township, and locating the properties is not difficult.
Take a multi-speciality clinic in DD block. The plot has changed hands thrice in the past two decades. The original lessee transferred it to an industrialist, who later transferred it to a doctor.
Another example of illegal transfer of land is a three-storeyed building in GC Block. The original lessee transferred it to another person in the eighties. The new ‘owner’ added two floors — illegal, according to the rulebook — and has been living in the building without facing any investigation.
“The original owner is a very close relative and everything is an internal understanding. We have not done anything illegal,” said the present owner.
From adopting the would-be buyer to making a will to effect the transfer to showing the transfer as a “gift” — various tools are being used to transact in properties in the township.
“The number of plots that have changed hands illegally runs into thousands. I am a resident of Salt Lake since 1973 and most people who were originally allotted land have transferred it to either promoters or other people,” says B.N. Chatterjee, a member of the Bidhannagar Bachao Committee.
Of the five sectors in the satellite township, Sectors I, II and III are residential. Sectors IV and V are for offices.
According to the residents’ association, violation of the transfer rule can be found in almost all the 69 blocks in the three sectors meant for residential purposes.
In January 2006, it filed a petition in the high court against illegal transfer of property. Then, the court had asked the government whether it had any information regarding the malpractice.
The state urban development department informed the high court in October 2006 that it had received several complaints of illegal transfer of land in the township and set up a committee to find out the number of such properties.
When the matter came up for hearing last month, the court set a three-week deadline to file a report on the number of plots illegally transferred in Salt Lake.
“We have already started working on the report that the high court has sought and will produce it on time,” said Bidhannagar Municipality chairman Biswajiban Majumdar, declining to divulge any details of the report.
But according to members of the Bidhannagar Bachao Committee, a section of officials in the municipality and the urban development department have always ignored complaints regarding illegal transfer of plots.
“Whenever we receive complaints about any illegal property transfer, we inform the urban development department, as it is the competent authority to take action,” Majumdar explained.
But he failed to cite cases where offenders were punished, as provided by the law.
“Most of the people engaged in such illegal activities are rich and influential and so it is difficult to take any action against them,” rued Chatterjee.