Vidhan Sabha committee divided over repealing Apartment Act

Shimla: Having caused sharp division about sale of land to builders lobby, a Vidhan Sabha committee constituted to review the HP Apartment Act, stands divided over recommending repeal of the very Act as some members are for making it more stringent to regulate construction activity.

Headed by senior BJP leader Suresh Bhardwaj, lawmakers Sukhvinder Singh Sukku, Randhir Sharma and Bal Krishan Chauhan met in the Vidhan Sabha secretariat on Wednesday and deliberated about the shortcomings in the act with senior government officials.

Sources privy to the meeting said that when facts were placed before committee, many digressions emerged.

“Since HP Apartment and Property Regulation Act 2005 became law, permissions had been granted within a week of builders having applied for housing projects. Some sanctions had even been granted on undated applications,” said the source.

Other shortcomings noticed were that there were many builders who had not even got themselves registered and instead of selling flats had entered into long term leases.

Whereas under the Apartment Act, a builder needs government sanction for relaxation of section 118 of HP Land Tenancy & Reforms Act, 1972, a scheduled law, for selling flats but for lease purposes no such permission is needed.

Some committee members supporting the builders lobby from Himachal were for repealing the act whereas others were for plugging loopholes in the Act and making it more stringent to regulate the sector, said the source.

When officers were quizzed about sanction to Bemloe Builders for constructing cottages in a thickly forested area, the committee was informed that no trees had been cut on the plot and a motorable road to the property already existed before permission was given.

When contacted Sukhvinder Singh Sukku, a congress legislator on the committee was evasive saying, “various views were expressed and the committee needs more time as other aspects about the Act still need to be considered. The committee will also like to do spot inspections before making their recommendations.”

With opposition congress having raised a furor in the budget session, terming misuse of the Apartment Act as a sellout, chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal had announced referring the matter to the speaker for setting up a house committee to review the Act.

In April, Speaker Tusli Ram had constituted a seven member committee headed by Bhardwaj to review the act.

Under the scanner are registrations of 248 builders in the state of which 158 were registered during the tenure of the previous congress government and 90 under the Dhumal government.

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