The land reserved for public purpose in a layout cannot be used for any other use, writes C. H. GOPINATHA RAO
The need to obtain proper approval for layout cannot be more stressed. One often finds buyers misled when it comes to layout rules.
There are well-defined rules regarding the number of plots, road widths and common spaces such as playgrounds to be provided in a layout. In spite of the rules being in place, there are cases where layouts have inadequate road widths.
But the most common problem faced in a layout is the absence of common open area or what is technically called land for public purpose. Even in cases where land is provided for public purpose, it is either sold or used for other purposes. Is this legitimate and possible?
In the judgment delivered April 12, 2007 the High Court (2007 )3 MLJ 990 in a case filed by the Devi Nagar Residents Welfare Association observed “a part of land reserved for public purpose in a layout or in a development plan or master plan approved by the local body cannot be used for any other purpose than the one specified therein.”
The Court further directed the Chief Secretary, Local Administration Department, Tamil Nadu to communicate the copy of the order to all local bodies with an instruction to scrupulously apply and follow the directions in all the layouts sanctioned or to be sanctioned. If there is any change or deviation in the purpose by the landowners or by any third party the same has to be stopped and the local body concerned shall take action.
In the above case, the residents had purchased plots in a layout approved in 1974 after due permission was obtained from the Directorate of Town and Country Planning. The Directorate, in its proceedings dated July 17, 1974 imposed 13 conditions which insisted that the place reserved for public purpose ,as per approved layout, shall be used only for the purpose for which it was earmarked.
Opposition to change
No change shall be made in the extent of the plot or in the place reserved for public purpose The landowner was asked to enter into a written agreement with the local body to abide by the conditions and the plots shall be sold or leased out subject to the conditions in the agreement and the conditions shall form part of the sale deed.
The land reserved for public purpose was kept vacant and the corporation in 1995 resolved to take the area for providing water supply, drainage and street light. The promoters of the layout and the residents opposed the move and approached the court. The High Court observed that “the public purpose of course cannot and should not be precisely defined and its scope and ambit be limited. The public purpose is not static. It changes with the passage of time, need and requirement of the community. Broadly speaking public purpose means the general interest of the community as opposed to the interest of an individual.”
The open space in a residential area should be treated as a lung space of the area which provides fresh air and refreshment to the persons in the neighbourhood. Its presence ameliorates the hazards of pollution and it has to be preserved and protected for the sustenance of men around. The same cannot be bartered for any other purpose.
The Court also directed the promoters to utilise the entire area reserved for public purpose within a maximum period of six months and if they could not maintain the park the corporation as custodian of public interest shall develop the area as a park with the cooperation of the owners with whom the title and possession continues. There are also other instances where the promoters of the layouts themselves sold the space earmarked for community and recreation purposes. When such buyers submitted plans for buildings, the plans were not approved on the ground that it was built on a land meant for public purpose. It is the responsibility of the owners of plots in the colony to be vigilant and take immediate initiative if any attempt is made to convert the reserved space for any other purpose other than for what it is approved. For those who are buying plots it is important to check whether the layout complies with the rules.
The author is former National President, Institution of Valuers.