A Supreme Court bench of justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, on October 24, 2019, said: “It will be obligatory for all municipal corporations in the state of Maharashtra, where the population is 50 lakhs or more, to get geo-mapping and geophotography of the areas under their jurisdiction done, within a period of one year. Geo-mapping will also be done of an area of 10 kms from the boundary of such areas. The records should be maintained and updated by the municipal corporations, within such time period as the municipal corporation deems fit, keeping in mind the specific circumstances of the area under its jurisdiction.” The top court passed the direction, in a move to control illegal constructions and held that geo-mapping could be done by satellite, drones or vehicles. Geo-mapping, or surveying of land and sub-surface using GPS, presents a detailed view of a site and the surrounding area, including roads, buildings, mountains, rivers, estuaries and pipelines.
The SC further directed the Maharashtra government to ensure that sufficient funds were made available to the municipal corporations concerned and the exercise be completed within a year from the date of this order. The top court also directed that whenever any new area is brought under the jurisdiction of a municipality, it will be the duty of the concerned corporation, to ensure that its geo-mapping is conducted and the records are created at the earliest.
Passing a slew of directions, the apex court said in cases where a building has been constructed in violation of applicable laws, the concerned authority should issue a show-cause notice, giving seven days to the owner. “In case the notice is not replied to within the time prescribed, seven days, then, the building shall be immediately demolished by the municipal corporation,” the bench said.
The apex court said that in cases where, according to the municipal corporation, there is ongoing construction which is being carried on in violation of applicable laws, the concerned authority shall issue show-cause notice giving 24 hours to the ‘owner/occupier/builder/ contractor/architect, etc.’ “Till the state frames any laws in this regard, we direct that before any construction/reconstruction, or repair not being a tenantable repair is carried out, the owner/occupier/builder/contractor/architect, in fact all of them should be required to furnish a plan of the structure as it exists. They will also provide an email ID and mobile phone number on which notice(s), if any, can be sent. This map can be taken on record and, thereafter, the construction can be permitted. In such an eventuality even if the demolition is illegal, it will be easy to know what the dimensions of the building were. This information should not only be in paper form in the nature of a plan but should also be in the form of 3D visual information, in the nature of photographs, videos, etc.,” the bench said.
The top court said that all over the country, when people raise illegal constructions, it is claimed that the said construction has been existing for long and the answer is to get geo-mapping done. “If on Google Maps one can get a road view, we see no reason as to why this technology cannot be used by the municipal corporations,” it said.
Maharashtra using drones to map villages and towns
The Maharashtra government is using drones mounted with high resolution cameras to speed up the exercise of mapping villages and towns in the state
March 12, 2018: The Maharashtra government has launched a pilot project, to survey villages and towns in the state with the help of camera-fitted drones, a revenue department official said, on March 11, 2018. Mapping was earlier carried out manually, but the drone technology is now changing the way this massive exercise is undertaken. Once extended to other areas and completed, the process is also expected to boost revenue collection for the government.
The project was launched in Sonori village in Purandar tehsil of Pune district. “There are 43,000 gaothans (old settlements) in the state, where exact information about government-owned land, open areas and private properties is not available. It has caused inordinate delay in charging property tax, drafting village or town-centric policies and implementing changes made in land utilisation reservation,” he said. “Till date, the state machinery used to do such surveys manually, which used to be full of errors and time consuming,” the officer said.
However, deploying drones will drastically cut down on time and also bring more clarity in the exercise. “Drones will capture the entire area in a few minutes and it can be downloaded on state-provided software. It will help the revenue officials to identify the open spaces, government and private land and quickly match them with the available records. This procedure can complete the mapping of a town in two to three days, which otherwise, would have taken months,” the revenue official said.
S Tripathi, an officer of the Survey of India, Dehradun, came to Pune last week and held a meeting with district collector Sourabh Rao and other officials for starting the pilot project. Under the project, which commenced on March 5, a couple of villages have already been mapped, the official said. The Survey of India works under the Union Ministry of Science and Technology.
The biggest benefit of the survey is going to be in revenue collection. The existing database is not accurate. Hence, there are several properties where no revenue tax is collected. Once such properties are identified, the local government or the revenue department can start collecting tax, he said. “We have not estimated how much tax collection will go up but it will be significant for sure. Every year, the revenue department comes up with special drives, to find out non-tax paying properties and some amount is recovered. With modern and updated maps, no one can evade revenue tax,” the official said.