Farmhouse-party policy: Objection
letter of 17.02.04 to secretary moud about policy to allow misuse of farmhouses for parties for a fee.
Mr N N Khanna, Secretary, MoUD, Nirman Bhawan, New Delhi - 110011
Sub: Objection to farmhouse party policy / request for equal policy for Yamuna Pushta till exams
Apropos the lately announced farmhouse party policy that makes a de-facto Plan modification, I wish to place on record my objection (under my rights u/s.11A of DD Act, 1957) on the following grounds:
- The policy has no valid public interest benefit. Benefit is being claimed on specious plea of shortage of party-places in Delhi, which is untenable in view of numerous hotels, clubs, places like IHC, IIC, etc and even MP bungalows. In any case, party place shortage cannot be met at cost of nuisance to others without even giving them an opportunity to object.
- The policy restrictions fail to fully address nuisance. Traffic is only one of the problems, not amenable to solution through restrictions based on size of farmhouse (regardless of capacity, not merely width, of access routes) or on baraats (by no means major mode of conveyance to parties). Freedom from, besides through traffic, high wattage noise systems, generator vibrations / fumes, etc, is an entitlement for which residents in areas like Vasant Kunj have paid while buying DDA flats. And the ground water that farmhouses use here is illegally drawn out of a duly notified critical resource. The restrictions do not address any of these infringements.
- The mechanism of a ‘misuse fee’ levied by MCD at rate of Rs.40,000 per party subject to maximum of 10 parties per month is devoid of any basis in law, as follows:
(a) Most party places pretending to be farmhouses attract penal provisions for development in contravention of the Plan (imprisonment u/s.29(1) and demolition u/s.30 and 31). A policy to permit unauthorised use of such development is beyond jurisdiction.
(b) Use (of conforming development) in contravention of the Plan attracts penalty by way of fine – not fee – u/s.29(2). A policy to convert misuse penalty to misuse fee is beyond jurisdiction. In 2002 Supreme Court quashed a similar initiative to allow commercial use of industrial plots.
(c) The amount of ‘misuse fee’, which cannot be credited to any accounting head being neither misuse penalty nor license fee, is without basis in law. s.29(2) stipulates a fine of Rs.5,000 and an Amendment to increase this to Rs.50,000 has reportedly lately only been proposed.
(d) This fee extortion is beyond jurisdiction of MCD since misuse comes within the ambit of DD Act and rural area falls outside the purview of MCD building regulations.
I wish to underscore the following apropos farmhouses party places in CGWA notified J-Zone:
- they pose more serious environmental concern than, say, Yamuna Pushta vis-à-vis Yamuna
- routine nuisance they cause to neighbours is far greater than what, say, Yamuna Pushta does
- criminal / anti-social activities have off and on been reported in them
- ad-hocism about them will adversely affect J-Zone Plan, like ad-hoc schemes will O-Zone Plan - need-to-party justification for their continuing misuse is unsustainable after rejection of need-to-study justification for delaying demolition of Yamuna Pushta till after examinations
The contrast between, on one hand, DDA/MCD enthusiasm to develop/find party-places to make ado about their so-called shortage so farmhouse parties can appear need-based and, on the other, their utter indifference, assurances to court notwithstanding, to ensure for children unsettled from Yamuna Pushta any support to tide them over exams makes me hang my head in shame, more so because I have failed in my responsibility as a planner to impress upon my government the import of its unlawful actions. In view of the forgoing, I seek, in line with need-to-party based policy to condone misuse of farmhouses for a fee, a need-to-study based policy against demolition prior to examinations, with immediate determination of fee amount and payment modality. And I request urgent response to this letter.
Gita Dewan Verma / Planner