The issue of land encroachment around the Pattandur Agrahara Lake in Bengaluru’s Whitefield area took a fresh twist on Tuesday when the Karnataka High Court ordered officials from the revenue department to transfer revenue records to the names of private parties that have laid claim to the lake.
This development comes just nine days after the HC issued notices to the BBMP, BDA, KLCDA and the state government asking the civic authorities to clear encroachments on the lake. Since September last year, the buffer zone around the water body has been subjected to constant dumping of debris and illegal tree felling until the HC’s intervention. But with the court’s latest order on Tuesday, the threat of encroachment has become more real.
The decision of the HC appears to stem from an earlier decree made in 2016 that declared the lake to be private. At the time, the order went uncontested by the government. This negligence has since drawn the ire of activists and residents who have decried erstwhile Tahsildar Tejas Kumar and Deputy Commissioner Shankar, who were charged with safeguarding the lake, for failing to file an appeal in a higher court.
Noting their outrage, the current Tahsildar, Ramakrishnaiah, filed an appeal at the Supreme Court in February this year but it was reportedly dismissed on account of being too late. The private entities who have claimed to own the lake then filed a contempt petition at the Karnataka HC against Ramakrishnaiah and the current DC for not transferring the records to their names.
However, a notice put out by citizen’s group ‘Save Pattandur Agrahara Lake’ quotes Balasubramanian, an IAS officer who served as Chairman of the Task Force for Recovery of Public Land and its Protection, as saying that it is illegal to grant a lake to anyone.
Perhaps this explains why the claimants to the lake are attempting to fight the case based on the claim that the lake was formerly a plot of land.
“It has been identified as a lake in every document for the last 100 years. If it wasn't a lake, it shouldn't have identified as such in the records for so long,” says Sandeep Anirudhan, an activist who is a part of ‘Save Pattandur Agrahara Lake’.
“To continue fighting the case, we just need to find old documents. We are going to file a PIL in the Supreme Court. We are going to examine the entire trail of events to examine if there has been a miscarriage of justice or improper representation or some sort of influence in the whole thing,” he told TNM.
Revenue officials have been ordered to appear in court on Tuesday with proof that they have transferred the documents.
“People are curious about why the judge is rushing the case. It seems to have been happening on a fast track mode,” says Sandeep.
Interestingly, this will be the last case to be tried by the judge, BS Patil, before he retires.