Environment Support Group and ors. had challenged the construction of the southern reach of Bangalore Metro as being in gross violation of the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act and other statutes in a Public Interest Litigation (WP 13241/2009, accessible online at: /campaigns/metro/legal.html). This followed widespread protests against the illegal development of the Southern Reach of the “Namma Metro”. The protests that ran for weeks highlighted the callous disregard for public opinion by Metro authorities who were destroying the sanctity of public commons - especially portions of Lalbagh and the boulevards along K. R. Road and Nanda Road. Communities also joined hands to peacefully raise their concerns against the ruthless manner in which the Metro destructively tore through the city's fabric with an ill-thought Metro line.
Another major issue in focus was that in a highly questionable decision, the Government of Karnataka had authorised the sale of a portion of Lalbagh as an industrial site to the Metro from the State Horticulture Dept. Thus setting a shocking precedent in making this world famous and historical living heritage of the city a tradable commodity. If Lalbagh could be sold, then no public space and commons were safe!
ESG filed a PIL to stop this unnecessary ruination of an old city, and promoted a variety of viable alternative proposals, which unfortunately the authorities doggedly refused to acknowledge. Without any other option a Public Interest Litigation was filed challenging violation of various planning laws and norms, and also against the traditing of Lalbagh - a public commons. As no stay was granted, Bangalore Metro destroyed a substantial portion of the parks and boulevards. Yet ESG pursued its efforts in the Court.
Disposing the Petition finally on 16th November 2010, a Division Bench of the Karnataka High Court constituted by Chief Justice Mr. J. S. Khehar and Justice Mr. A. S. Bopanna observed that the "factual controvery brought out through the ... writ petitions" have been "rendered infructuous", given the substantial development of the Phase I of the Southern Reach of the Metro. However, the Court took full cognisance of the submission made by the Petitioners that "if a direction is issued to the State Government, as also, the Bangalore Development Authority to ensure that in future, in case they desire to change the land use, as has been depicted in the master plan, the competent authority shall follow the procedural mandate depicted in Section 14-A of the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act, 1961 And likewise in case of making a town planning scheme, the State Government, as also the Bangalore Development Authority shall comply with the procedure contained in Sections 29, 30, 31, 32 and 34 of the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act, 1961".
The Court also observed that "......the provisions referred to hereinabove, shall be complied with, without any deviation whatsoever". Reiterating its intent to punish violations, the Court in a clear message to all urban planning and infrastructure development authorities warned that "....in case of violation of direction issued by this Court, based on statement made to this Court, the concerned officer/official shall be held responsible, for his having disobeyed the order passed by this Court, as also, the prescribed mandate of law".
No more can any planning authority or implementing agency claim that it is exempt from the provisions of the Karnataka Town and Country Planing Act. This progressive law mandating public participation in decision making was enacted in 1961, but has remained largely unimplemented. People now can take control of their cities as a matter of their Fundamental Right.
ESG is an independent not-for-profit organisation that promotes the cause of environmental and social justice through research, documentation, advocacy, training and campaign support. We aim to support the rights of local communities and voiceless ecosystems in a responsible, progressive manner that keeps contextual complexities in mind.