Taking note of the complaints from various residents that the Chandigarh Estate Office was harassing them by imposing heavy penalty in the form of building misuse charges without amending the Capital of Punjab (Development and Regulation) Act, 1952, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has refrained the Estate Office from taking any coercive steps to recover misuse charges.
A division bench comprising Justices A K Mittal and Ramendra Jain came down heavily on the Chandigarh Estate Office on Tuesday. The court said that it would get inspection of the Estate Office done, keeping in view various complaints against it. The court also noted that the amount of misuse penalty being imposed on the residents was surprisingly even more than the cost of the property itself.
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The directions came during the hearing of a bunch of petitions filed by Kujjal Builders Private Limited and other Chandigarh residents. These petitions have been pending before the High Court since 2014. The petitioners have challenged the Chandigarh Estate Rules, 2007, arguing that under the garb of framing rules, the Chandigarh Administration cannot increase the misuse charges from what has been prescribed in the parent Act, Capital of Punjab (Development and Regulation) Act, 1952.
Initially, the rate of penalty per square foot per day was Rs 10 for violations of industrial plots and Rs 6 for residential plots. But under the garb of making rules, the Chandigarh Administration increased penalty to Rs 500 per square foot with the enforcement of the Chandigarh Estate Rules, 2007. When it was challenged, the High Court on October 8, 2012, in “Dheera Singh vs UT Chandigarh and others” ruled that the administration was not eligible to impose enhanced penalty without amendment in the 1952 Act from Parliament.
“The power to determine the nature and extent of penalties for varied violations under the Act was neither intended nor was delegated by the Legislature to the Executive,” the full court had ruled.
Still, the Chandigarh Administration kept on imposing the enhanced penalties on the city residents. The Chandigarh Administration has admitted before the High
Court that its proposal to amend the Capital of Punjab (Development and Regulation) Act, 1952, by Parliament to enhance penalty for building violations is pending consideration of the Centre.
Again in violation of the High Court verdict, the Chandigarh Administration on March 28, 2016, reduced the penalty charges from Rs 500 to Rs 300 per square foot in case of commercial plots and to Rs 180 per square foot for residential plots, and continues to impose such penalties as of date despite even pendency of contempt of court petition in the High Court filed by Avtar Singh Bhatti and others.
The case was adjourned to February 14.