The Madras High Court on Thursday criticised the State government for going on a “spree” declaring almost all district headquarters as municipal corporations but failing to fulfil the constitutional as well as statutory obligation of constituting Metropolitan Planning Committees (MPCs) essential for a planned development.
The Fourth Division Bench of Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and R. Hemalatha directed the Municipal Administration Secretary, the Housing Secretary, the Rural Development Secretary and the Director of Town and Country Planning to appear through video-conference on December 13 to explain the delay.
The order was passed on a PIL petition filed by Coimbatore-based chartered engineer S. Kanagasundaram for constituting MPCs in accordance with Article 243ZE of the Constitution and the Tamil Nadu Metropolitan Planning Committee Act, 2009. In their interim order summoning the officials, the judges said it had become a routine practice for the heads of departments and other officials not to comply with even the constitutional provisions.
It was due to such a lackadaisical attitude, numerous cases were being filed in the court leading to docket explosion, they added.
Further expressing displeasure over the speed with which the government was declaring every other district headquarters as municipal corporation without creating the requisite infrastructure, Justice M. Sathyanarayanan told an Additional Advocate General that “the day is not far when every other village in the State would also be declared as a corporation.”
The petitioner pointed out that Article 243ZE, requiring constitution of committees for metropolitan planning, was inserted through the 74th amendment in 1992. As per the constitutional provision, two-thirds of the members of the MPCs should be elected from among the elected members of civic bodies and the rest could be nominated by the government.
The democratic MPCs differ from authorities such as Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority and Local Planning Authorities which comprise only government officials.
West Bengal was the first State to implement the constitutional amendment by enacting the West Bengal Metropolitan Planning Committee Act, 1994, he said.
At present, the Kolkata Metropolitan Planning Committee consists of 40 elected members and 20 nominated members. Similarly, the Tamil Nadu Metropolitan Planning Committee Act was enacted in 2009, but so far the MPC had been constituted only in Chennai and not in other metropolitan areas, he said.
The 2009 Act defines a ‘metropolitan area’ as the one having a population of 10 lakh or more. “In Tamil Nadu, there are more than 10 corporations which come under the category of metropolitan area as per this Act. In November 2006, the government proposed to constitute a MPC for Coimbatore, but till date that proposal has not been fulfilled,” the litigant complained.