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HC blow to State Govt, KHADC, headmen

MUDA Building Bye Laws extended beyond municipal areas

SHILLONG: In a serious setback to the State government, the KHADC and the traditional heads, the High Court of Meghalaya on Wednesday extended the jurisdiction of the MUDA Building Bye Laws beyond the Municipal areas after hearing a PIL seeking the implementation of the building bye laws in the entire Shillong Master Plan areas.
The Division Bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice Uma Nath Singh and Justice T.N.K. Singh has stayed the November 5 order of the Secretary, Meghalaya Urban Development Authority, which had excluded non-urban areas from the purview of the MUDA Building Bye Laws.
It was under pressure from traditional heads under the banner of Synjuk ki Nongsynshar Shnong Ka Bri U Hynniewtrep on November 5 last, that the State government had issued a notification and assured the headmen’s body that no building bye laws will apply to scheduled areas.
During the hearing on the PIL filed by one Tirot Sing Syiemlieh, counsel for the petitioner, N. Syngkon, informed the Court that the Meghalaya Building Bye Laws, 2011 which provides guidelines for construction of buildings as well as grant of permission to construct such buildings has been withdrawn by MUDA without any valid reason.
The petitioner said that Meghalaya is at Zone 5 which is the highest level of seismic activity and the area can experience earthquakes which can be as high as 8/9 on the Richter Scale.
Shillong is on the slope of the hill and landslide is a common feature in Shillong as a   major portion of the hill in Shillong are loose soil and it is necessary to control, regulate and monitor the construction of buildings for the security and safety of its people’, the petitioner said.
While, the Meghalaya Building Bye Laws, 2011 apply to all the Master Plan areas and scheme areas notified or to be notified from time to time within the State, the MUDA Secretary, through a notification on November 5, had withdrawn the Meghalaya Building Bye Laws, 2011 from its operation in the Shillong Master Plan without citing any reason, the petitioner said.
“If the Meghalaya Urban Development Authority is not capable to regulate, supervise, monitor, and implement the Meghalaya Building Bye Laws, 2011 in Shillong Master Plan areas, where multistoried and high rise buildings are constructed rapidly, the government should have notified any other government department or established or notified any other agency to implement the same. Such withdrawal indicated that the government is not concerned about the security and safety of the general public of the State,” the PIL said.
According to the bye laws, constructions up to only G+3 are permissible. But the Court observed that in the absence of the Meghalaya Building Bye Laws, the builders can raise high rise buildings, an issue which was the subject matter of adjudication by the Court in another PIL on high rise building wherein, the Court has taken a serious view in the judgment.
Besides, the involvement of officers, builders and others held to have carried out illegal construction is also being scrutinized by the Central Bureau of Investigation, and that matter is pending in the Court, the Division Bench observed.
On the other hand, the counsel for the State, Khalid Khan, contended that the Meghalaya Building Bye Laws, 2011 has only been kept in abeyance and not withdrawn.
“Keeping in abeyance inter alia also means suspension of operation of bye laws, which was very much in force till the Secretary, MUDA, issued the impugned order in November 2015. In that view of the matter, the order of Secretary, Meghalaya Urban Development Authority dated 5.11.2015 is hereby stayed, and consequently, the Meghalaya Building Bye Laws shall remain in operation during the pendency of this petition,” the High Court said.
The respondents can file their affidavit-in-opposition within four weeks and the matter will come up for hearing on March 2 next year.
Before the notification of MUDA Secretary on November 5, following a public meeting organized by HSPDP leader Ardent Basaiawmoit, the Government through a notification on August 21 last had included 10 census towns and two statutory towns – Shillong Municipality and Shillong Cantonment – under the purview of MUDA Building Bye Laws.
In fact, the government was modifying an earlier notification issued on January 5 this year regarding the applicability of MUDA Building Bye Laws in several areas which are outskirts of the city.
There was also an attempt on the part of the State government to frame separate building bye laws for the rural areas of the State after the MUDA Building Bye Laws were made applicable only to urban areas and census towns.
However, with the order of the High Court on Wednesday, the MUDA Building Bye Laws will now be applicable to all the Master Plan areas, which will practically include the whole State.

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