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No power to rogue buildings

Jharkhand High Court has asked the state government not to provide electricity and water connections to all upcoming buildings if they fail to procure the mandatory occupancy certificates.

The order, which was passed by the division bench of Justices D.N. Patel and Amitav Kumar Gupta on Tuesday during hearing of a PIL filed by Har Narain Lakhotia in 2011 on the “nexus” between builders and government officials, is expected to curb illegal constructions in Ranchi.

The court has made it clear that the order be followed with immediate effect and circulated in all districts.

However, the old buildings that have come up in violation of norms laid down by Ranchi Regional Development Authority (RRDA) and Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC), which had prompted Lakhotia to move court, will remain unaffected.

After construction of a building is completed, the builder is supposed to apply for an occupancy certificate. The authority concerned issues the certificate only after verifying that the builder has not deviated from the original layout. Earlier, RRDA used to provide occupancy certificates, but now the job has been passed to RMC.

In the state capital, most buildings don’t have occupancy certificates.

The bench has directed the urban development department’s secretary to constitute a technical committee, comprising RRDA and RMC officials, within a fortnight to study the extent of deviations that the builders have made from the original plans.

The committee will carry out its inspections in phases. While commercial buildings will be covered in the first phase, inspections of residential apartments and private buildings will be carried out in the second and third phases respectively, the judges ruled.

The committee’s task will be to scrutinise the buildings, study their documents and ascertain how much deviation had taken place, whether it can be rectified or penalty needed to be imposed. However if the deviation is not rectifiable, the unauthorised structure will have to be demolished, the court observed.

Lakhotia had complained that RRDA approved maps for parking space in basements of buildings that were subsequently altered and converted into commercial units. He alleged that government officials connived with builders to bend rules to their advantage.

The high court ordered a CBI probe on March 23, 2011. The CBI told the court on June 14, 2011, that builders were “in connivance with RRDA and RMC officials” to “violate norms at will”.

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