E-certificates to curb violations


BBMP to issue Occupancy Certificates in DigiLocker to prevent use of forged documents

Days after BBMP’s assistant director of town planning was caught accepting a bribe of Rs 20 lakh from a businessman, the civic body has become alert. Besides suspending the junior officer, the civic body has transferred at least 15 engineers from the department. Officials now plan to use the DigiLocker facility to issue an occupancy certificate (OC) to eliminate the use of forged documents while obtaining services from other departments. Civic activists, however, wonder what stops the BBMP from putting all types of building approvals including plan sanctions, commencement certificate (CC) and OC in the public domain.

“In the near future, we will start issuing commencement certificate (OC) and occupancy certificate (OC) by making use of the DigiLocker facility. This will ensure that the property owner will not be able to obtain services from BESCOM and BWSSB etc by providing manual documents,” N. Manjunath Prasad, BBMP Commissioner said. “We have already digitized the process of getting building plan approvals. This is working fine,” he added.

Officials believe routing all documents from one department to the other through DigiLocker will eliminate the use of forged documents to obtain civic services. Although the occupancy certificate is a must for all buildings, many low-rise buildings including commercial establishments — which are less than 15-metres in height — are able to get water and electricity connections without submitting the OC.

Citizen groups, civic activists and builders, however, say that the use of DigiLocker in itself will be of no or little use as long as there is human interaction.

“Just building online applications does not help. Other than uploading documents, the rest of the procedure involves human interaction. And that’s where corruption takes place,” said a Bengaluru-based builder. He said the system should be modelled around Income Tax filing. “The IT Department picks up random cases to scrutinise returns unless there are complaints. Something similar should be done in this case,” he said. He added that just like Chartered Accountants are held responsible when there are IT violations, architects should be held accountable for building violations.

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RTI activist BH Veeresh said building violation scams are estimated to be valued at around Rs 2,000 crore a year. “From officials to elected representatives, everyone stands to benefit from this scam. The least BBMP can do is put out all building approvals on its website. Citizens should be able to keep a check on whether the building, being constructed in their neighbourhood, follows the sanctioned plan or not. This could help in reducing the extent of corruption,” he said.

Currently, building approvals such as plan sanction, commencement certificate or OC are not easily accessible. Citizens say the Right to Information (RTI) has been their only recourse to enquire about building violations. The delayed response, they say, makes it difficult to stop the construction midway.

According to Vijay Reddy, president of the Langford Gardens Residents’ Welfare Association, “We made a complaint before the joint commissioner, the commissioner and then with the administrator that an under-construction building in our locality was violating the sanctioned plan by 55 per cent. None of the senior officials made any attempt to stop the construction. The zonal officials did not disclose the sanctioned plan to us when we visited the office. We had to obtain it through RTI.

While the property owner had permission to construct only G+4, he is currently building seven floors, including the basement. Even the setback rules have been violated,” he added. The association is currently planning to file a public interest litigation (PIL) in the High Court and also file a case with the Lokayukta.



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Sagar Biswas

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