A Rs 500-crore scam has surfaced in the BBMP’s town planning department, which allegedly issued occupancy certificates (OCs) to at least 30 buildings that had up to 40 per cent deviations from the sanctioned plan.
The certificates were issued by reducing the deviation percentage to under 5, the permissible limit, in the documents. In some cases, officials were found mischievously increasing the width of the road to reduce the deviation percentage to less than the prescribed mark. If the OCs were not issued illegally, the BBMP would have earned Rs 500 crore by penalizing the building owners, it is alleged.
Taking serious note of the matter, the Urban Development Department (UDD) has asked the BBMP chief commissioner to order a third-party inquiry and submit a report at the earliest. DH has reviewed the letter dated June 9.
The probe was ordered following a complaint by Pavan Kumar AP, president of Bengaluru Welfare Committee, an NGO, on June 6. The mass-scale discrepancies are said to have come to light following a rivalry between two officers of the same department.
In particular, the UDD has ordered a probe into five files (cases):
a) OC issued to a building that left a setback of 3.5 meters, as against the required 5 meters, and had a 32 per cent deviation. (Addil Dir / JDTP (N) LP No 257 / 12-13)
b) plan approved for a commercial building citing the road width of a different area, thereby helping the builder earn an additional profit of Rs 50 crore (Addil Dir / JDTP (N) LP 07 / 19-20).
c) OC issued to a building with a 35 per cent deviation (Addil Dir / JDTP (N) LP No 052 / 17-18).
d) Previously-issued building plan destroyed to issue a new one to bring down the deviation to less than 5 per cent (Addil Dir / JDTP (N) 293 / 12-13).
e) OC issued to a building with 40 per cent division (Addil Dir / JDTP (N) 660 / 13-14).
All the cases allegedly occurred in the north division of the BBMP’s town planning department, on the watch of joint director B Manjesh, who personally inspected the buildings and “passed” them.
Asked to comment, Manjesh said he was not aware of any letter issued by the UDD.
The complaint also listed an additional 25 cases where violations of similar nature were allowed by officials without taking any action. In such cases, the buildings were allowed to come up on properties by encroaching upon portions of stormwater drains and lakes. Interestingly, most of the violations were also cleared by the higher-ups in the BBMP, according to the complaint.
The UDD’s recent letter also refers to its previous letter that had ordered a departmental inquiry against officials of the town planning department in April this year with respect to the above-mentioned charges. The UDD’s previous letter had apparently never reached the chief commissioner’s office as it was found to be lying in the BBMP’s administration department.