BENGALURU: Facing criticism from various quarters, the Karnataka cabinet on Thursday decided to temporarily halt the demolition of houses on lakebeds in BDA layouts and cautiously continue the drive in private layouts.
The move is an attempt to avoid more legal complications and deflect public anger the ruling Congress is dealing with ahead of the gram panchayat and BBMP elections.
"We have decided to halt the demolition of BDA houses on lakebeds till we get a report from a house committee headed by KB Koliwad,'' law and parliamentary minister TB Jayachandra said after a cabinet meeting.
Though the committee recently sought more time to prepare the report, Jayachandra said he held talks with Koliwad, who assured him he would submit it within 15 days. The government will study the report and decide the future course of action.
The anti-encroachment drive will, however, continue in private layouts with a rider: houses or buildings will not be demolished if the owners furnish property records. "If we find that the records indicate the approval of government body or officials, we won't demolish such structures,'' Jayachandra added.
The cabinet asked the law ministry to work on a plan to rehabilitate people displaced during the demolition drive.
Special courts to try land grabbers
The government has decided to implement the Karnataka Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act, 2011, by setting up two special courts to try encroachers of government land.
Jayachandra said the Karnataka high court has given its approval for setting up these courts. These will be constituted within a month. These courts, comprising a chairman and four members, will have both civil and criminal jurisdiction. They are to complete trial in six months.
The act, which received the President's assent in 2014, has a provision to initiate criminal action against land grabbers. It provides for imprisonment for a period of not less than one year which could be extended to three years with a fine up to Rs 25,000. The act also enables recovery of encroached land or recovery of its market value if such land cannot be recovered due to any reason.