Sunday 11 August 2013

Now these clubs can breath easy

In an earlier post, the blog had an article on the many facets of Cubbon Park and how even today it is a living park. It not only houses the centre of governance but also plays a gracious host to highest judicial body of Karnataka.
Incidentally, Cubbon Park and the Karnataka High Court whose premises is situated on the premises of the park share a strong bond and each is known because of the other.
Coincidentally, the first public interest litigation (PIL) ever filed in the Karnataka High Court related to the demolition of the iconic High Court building. The case gathered widespread attention as many aspects of Cubbon Park too was highlighted during the hearing.
The strong public sentiment against the demolition forced the then Ramakrishna Hegde Government to drop the move to demolish the High Court building. Instead, it was compelled to repair and renovate the old building, while adding an look-alike annexe.
Since then, Cubbon Park has always been the focus of  attention. One of the sitting judges of the Karnataka High Court, Justice M.F. Saldhana, first took on a batch of cases singlehandedly and ordered the Government and the authorities to protect the park.
Though this order was later set aside by a Division Bench, citing lack of jurisdiction, the train of movements, agitations, citizens’ initiative and public protests for the preservation of the park received a shot in the arm.
When the Government proved unequal to the task of protecting the boundaries of the park, the High court took it upon itself to regularly monitor the upkeep of the vast stretch of green. When the Government decided to barricade itself in the Vidhana Soudha and came up with a slew of measures, including construction of grilled compound, enhanced security, the High Court too sought similar measures for the park and itself.
The Government then passed the Preservation Act, 1979 under the  provision of Karnataka Government Park (Preservation) Act, 1975.
This act specifies that no land should be granted to nor any further constructions be permitted whether temporary or permanent by any organization or individuals in the Cubbon Park and Lalbagh areas except the constructions taken up by the Horticulture Department in furtherance of the objectives of the department.
Subsequently, several NGOs, environmentalists, nature lovers and even citizens of Bangalore filed cases in the High court demanding steps to protect the park. One of the first to file a case was Bimal Desai who had sought eviction of several clubs located on the premises.
Desai said all the clubs - Century Club, Secretariat Club, Press Club and Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Stadium and Club were located with the precincts of the Cubbon Park. He had petitioned the High Court seeking a direction to the authorities to evict the clubs so that the park could be protected.
He had said that Cubbon Park, which extended over 300 acres in 1873, had been systematically reduced to less than 190 acres. He also said that the State Government enacted Karnataka Government Parks (Preservation) Act, 1975 for saving parks, including the Cubbon Park, from further shrinkage. The Act makes it statutory for the State to maintain and preserve all parks.
He said even after the Act was passed, the clubs had come up and that they had constructed buildings in violation of this order  (prohibiting construction of any temporary or permanent structure). However all these cases which were clubbed together and were being heard by the First court or the court headed by the Chief Justice  were dismissed on December 15,  2011 for non appearance of the counsel for the petitioner (Mr. Desai).
However, the case was restored after the petitioner filed an application for restoration of the case. When the case came up for hearing, a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D
HWaghela and Justice BVNagarathna dismissed the petition on May 28, 2013 following a submission made by Advocate General Ravivarma Kumar.
The Advocate General had contended that there is  no ground made out for recalling order of dismissal for default. With the dismissal of this petition, the clubs can now breath easy. However, what remains unspoken and unsaid is that not only the clubs but all other outlets and establishments in and around the park have a responsibility to save, protect, preserve the park.
The Government alone cannot be expected to do everything. It is the duty of Bangaloreans to take the lead in making the elected representatives and authorities aware of the need to retain the present boundaries of the park.
By the way, a 2003 case relating to Cubbon Park contains an injunction against any construction or alienation of land in Cubbon Park of any kind and also a direction to the authorities to  adhere to section 4(2) of Karnataka Government Parks Preservation Act.
The Act bars any kind of alienation of park land, including by way of licencing. Despite this order, there have been reports of  organizations blatantly going ahead with construction without either seeking permission of the court or the Horticulture Department, which is the custodian of the park.
There were reports of the KSLTA trying to build a new wing and also the Secretariat Club constricting a small room to house its generator. Both did not deem it necessary to take the permission.
Now let us see what the Act says. The act is reproduced from the Gazette. It is self explanatory. The act was amended to allow certain constructions for Namma Metro only. So here goes……

Arrangement of Sections
1. Short title and commencement
2. Insertion of new section 5
3. Repeal and savings

Amending Act 21 of 2010.- It is considered necessary to amend the Karnataka Government Parks (Preservation) Act, 1975 to provide for alienation of certain area of Indira Gandhi Musical Foundation Park to Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike and Lalbagh to the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd., for the following purposes; namely:-
(i) for widening of the roads by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike, and
(ii) for construction of elevated station for Metro Rail Project of Bangalore.

As the matter was urgent and both the Houses of the Karnataka State Legislature were not in session, the Government of Karnataka promulgated the Karnataka Government Parks (Preservation) (Amendment) Ordinance, 2008. (Karnataka Ordinance 4 of 2008)
This Bill seeks to replace the said Ordinance.
Hence the Bill.
[L.A.Bill No. 11 of 2009, File No.DPAL 28 Shasana 2008]
[Entry 18 of List II of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India.]
(First Published in the Karnataka Gazette Extra-ordinary on the Seventeenth day of May, 2010)
(Received the assent of the Governor on the Seventh day of May, 2010)
An Act, further to amend the Karnataka Government Parks (preservation) Act, 1975.
Whereas, it is expedient further to amend the Karnataka Government parks (Preservation) Act 1975 (Karnataka Act 23 of 1975), for the purposes hereinafter appearing;
Be it enacted by the Karnataka State Legislature in the fifty-ninth year of the Republic of India as follows:-
1. Short title and commencement :- (1) This Act may be called the Karnataka Government Parks (Preservation) (Amendment) Act, 2009. 2
(2) Clause 2 and 3 except clause (c) and (d) of section 5 to be inserted shall be deemed to have come into force with effect from 22nd day of November 2008 and clause (c) and (d) of section 5 shall come into force with immediate effect.
2. Insertion of new section 5 :- After Section 4 of the Karnataka Government Parks (Preservation) Act, 1975 (Karnataka Act 23 of 1975) the following new section shall be inserted namely:-
“5. Permission in certain cases :- Notwithstanding anything contained in section 4, the State Government may subject to such conditions and restrictions as it may impose as regards construction, maintenance, management use and like matters alienate an area of,-
(a) 1223 sq. mtrs at Indira Gandhi Musical Fountain Park to the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike for the purpose of widening of roads; and
(b) 1135. 18 sq. mtrs at Lalbagh gardens along the compound wall of west gate towards western side of the park (presently called R.V. Road) to Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited for the purpose of construction of elevated Station for Metro Rail Project of Bangalore”
(c) 2126.71 sq.mtrs area of Cubbon Park located between Vidhana Soudha and Karnataka High Court Building, East: Park area of survey No. 1284; West: Survey No. 570; North: Park area in survey No. 1284 linking to the nursery and South: Park area of survey No. 1284 opposite to High Court ;
(d) 11,160 sq.mtrs area of Cubbon Park located between East: High Court of Karnataka in survey No. 1284; West: Existing Road between Vidhana Soudha, and High Court in the Cubbon Park area of survey No. 1284; North: General Post Office and South: Cubbon Park area of survey No. 1284.
3. Repeal and savings.- (1) The Karnataka Government Parks (Preservation) (Amendment) Ordinance, 2008 (Karnataka Ordinance No. 4 of 2008) is hereby repealed.
(2) Notwithstanding such repeal anything done or any action taken under the principal Act as amended by the said ordinance shall be deemed to have been done or taken under the principal Act as amended by this Act.
By Order and in the name of the Governor of Karnataka

Secretary to Government,

Department of Parliamentary Affairs and Legislation

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