Illegal housing in India

Main article: Housing in India
Wadala slums. Over the years, slum development had started in Wadala adjacent to the railway tracks and a large colony began to form. In 2006, the state government took action and cleared the area of slums.[1]

Illegal housing in India consists of huts or shanties built on land not owned by the residents (i.e., squatting) and illegal buildings constructed on land not owned by the builders or developers. Although illegal buildings may afford some basic services, such as electricity, in general illegal housing does not provide services that afford for healthy, safe environments.

Collapses of illegal buildings made with inadequate building supplies and practices have resulted in the death of its occupants. A recent example is the 4th April 2013 collapse of an eight story building in the Shil Phata area of Mumbra, in the greater Mumbai area. 72 people were killed in the collapse.

Strategies to curb or mitigate illegal housing include creating more affordable housing structures, redeveloping the safe illegal buildings, developing a plan of action for residents of shanties or illegal buildings, and policing the construction of illegal buildings or shanties.


Illegal housing is a black economy activity, where individuals either encroach upon property illegally or pay for housing that is illegal. In such cases there are little or no public services or utilities. In some cases electricity or water is accessed illegally. Illness is an issue due to poor water supply and the unavailability of sewage and garbage services.[2]

To ensure continued residency in the illegally occupied area, its inhabitants generally bribe corrupt officials, corruption being an everlasting problem in India. More often than not, relationships with municipal offices, police and local representatives are organised by a third party with interests in ensuring that the illegal housing is not demolished. Because illegal property is not taxed, there is no income stream to pay for health or other municipal services that are required for its inhabitants.[2]

Stamp Duty Issues—contempt of courts

There is rampant contempt of courts & therefore it is very difficult to get the written word of the law enforced. Maharashtra is one of the forward looking states but then too, it is very difficult to put a stop to the illegality of the contempt of courts because the bureaucracy & the political establishment is simply not bothered. One of the examples of contempt of courts taking place on everyday basis & almost in every valuation of property is reproduced below to give you an idea of the ground reality.

A.The Supreme Court has ruled that the reckoner value cannot be used for arriving at the Market Value. B. The Mumbai Stamp authorities have given undertaking to the Bombay HC that reckoner value will not be used will not be used for Market Value determination. C. Individual property valuation has to be carried out based on the Spot verification. 4. No penalty can be levied after reasonable period.

Contempt of the courts instances are enumerated below with applicable citations:

A. Supreme Court has given an important judgement on ready reckoner/guideline issued by the Stamp Authorities in Jawajee Nagnatham V. Revenue Divisional Officer, Adilabad and Others (1994) 4 SCC 595 [3] The Supreme Court held that the basic value register of guideline or ready reckoner by whatever name called has no statutory force and value of each immovable property comprised in the instrument has to be decided according to the Rules governing true market value. The valuation department has to make valuation of each individual property according to the Rules prescribed under the Stamp Act.

B. The Mumbai Stamp Authorities have given undertaking to the Bombay High Court that Ready Reckoner values will not be used for property valuation. The said undertaking is given in the case of Ashok Bansilal Mutha vs. State of Maharashtra & Ors. (.[4] How can the Undertaking given to the Bombay High Court be violated?

(Breach of Undertaking given to a court on the faith of which the court sanctions a course of action is misconduct amounting to contempt of court.[5]

(The action of authorities in respect of A & B is willful, deliberate & in clear disregard of Apex court’s order & civil contempt as held in.[6]

Inspector General of Registration, Pune, Maharashtra is fully aware that as on date in all payments of stamp duty cases, the calculations are made on the basis of ready reckoner rate it & Chief Secretary, GoM is fully aware of it but then contempt of the SC & the UT given to the Bombay HC do not even bother these officials. The matter is brought to the attention of the Chief Minister as well as the Governor of Maharashtra but to no avail. Why these authorities are not willing to stem the rot? Is revenue collection so important that the law laid down by the Supreme Court & Undertaking given to the Bombay High Court can be violated at will by the authorities!

C. There is on the Spot verification required to be carried out by the designated departmental officer. This verification report is essential to arrive at the individual property valuation then how can this be discarded without assigning any reason contrary to the ruling of the Supreme Court as held in Jawajee Nagnatham supra. If the authorities are not in a position to comply with the laid down law then why they have not approached the Supreme Court to review & modify the order?

D. The High court ruling has ruled in [7] that power to levy penalty should be exercised within a reasonable time. The reasonable time is not beyond 3 years as such as held in NEELDHARA citation. The Stamp authorities merrily raise short Stamp duty payment demands even after 15–20 years after the stamp duty payment in case of deemed conveyance & demand penalty @ 2% per month or up to 400% of the deficit. The department has the stamp duty records since the payment of duty then why the assessment is not completed & how & why the citizens are held to a ransom when they come for deemed conveyance? Why the officials not held liable for dereliction of duty & not completing the assessment of duty payment.

E. The Supreme Court has ruled in [8] that reasoned speaking order is indispensable part of basic rule of law and mandatory requirement of procedural law by practice and by virtue of judge made law. However, the demand notices do not contain any detail about how the valuation has been arrived at all. The Demand Notices are very cryptic & devoid of any material details about how the valuation is carried out. This again is a deliberate attempt to escape responsibility & accountability & bulldoze the citizen to succumb to the high handedness of the authorities.

On the other hand the responsibility of conveyance is on the builders then why the Govt. of Maharashtra should not levy penalty on the builders if the conveyance is not completed within 4 months of the society formation. Why the property buyers should bear the brunt of negligence of builders & why the State government should side with the builders at the cost of the buyers of flats.

Therefore for getting deemed conveyance, each & every member of the society is made to shell out several thousand rupees as bribe contribution for deemed conveyance for the Co-operative Housing Society Limited. Further, as pointed out, individual members are subject to penalty even after 15–20 years of having paid the stamp duty on the basis of reckoner rate which is contempt of Supreme Court & Undertaking given to the Bombay High Court.

Since the responsibility of conveyance is on the builder, the Chief Minister, Maharashtra should ensure that defaulter pays & levy penalty on the builder for not completing conveyance. The CHSL should not be compelled to shell out bribes for getting deemed conveyance. No short payment penalty of 400% can then be levied on the society members as per the law settled by the SC & if the assessment of the stamp duty payment is carried out immediately after payment. This assessment is carried out by the authorities in case the document is being registered in any case then why the same is not carried out in those cases where the buyers don't proceed with registration? If assessments are carried out fairly as per the law laid down by the Supreme Court then cheating of the CHSL members stops automatically.

History and background

Ineffective land reform and rent control policies beginning in the 1950s and building height and land ceiling restrictions of the 1970s have "single-handedly exacerbated overcrowding and lack of urban space in India several times over," according to Vinayak Chatterjee, government and private sector infrastructure consultant. India had the world's lowest percentage of affordable housing by the 1980s.[9]

Nandan Nilekani, author of Imagining India: The idea of a Renewed Nation commented:

A series of well-meaning but horribly counterproductive laws passed during this decade [1970s], which gave an immense leg up to interest groups in the city. The rent-control legislation and the Urban Land Ceiling Act had effects that, in the best of social tradition, were just the opposite of what they intended. The rent act, by stating minimal leasing periods and strict eviction limits, basically gave renters carte blanche to squat and quickly took unoccupied housing off the market, and the land ceiling act shifted large amounts of land into the illegal market.[10]

The real estate development market in Indian can exhibit monopolistic and oligopolistic tendencies. Since the 1990s all of Mumbai's available private land has been controlled by a small group of development organisations where land is "released in small quantities when prices were high." Governmental agencies, like the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), control the Delhi real estate market place since the Delhi Development Act of 1957, which prevents private developers from entering the market.[10]

The multiple initiative Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission was launched in 2005, but ineffective due to poor execution. Greater success could be found through improved, fair and effective regulation; stronger engagement of the private sector; and policies that allow for use of private capital.[11] Enabling city governments to become more effective urban managers, through coordination or delegation of duties performed at the state level and training, will also create an environment for more effective urban renewal projects.[12]

The early years of the 21st century have seen a worsening of urban services, including housing. resulting in "informal, nonstate solutions", such as local efforts to provide utility services to slums for a fee.[13]

Overpopulation and inadequate affordable housing

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation reported by 2013 that there are approximately 19 million families without affordable housing.[14]

A lack of housing coupled with high population growth, and has resulted in individuals living in low-cost illegal buildings[14][15] or building shanties or huts on illegal land.[10] For instance, many people have moved to the greater Mumbai area in search of jobs, and without affordable housing, thousands sleep in slums or on the streets.[14] As a result, there is a trend of increased illegal housing in municipalities within Mumbai Metropolitan Development Authoritym.[16][17][18] In the Thane district alone, there were reported to be 500,000 illegal buildings by 2010.[16]

Further complicating land development projects, groupings of huts or shanties on illegal land can stall projects until there is a plan and action taken to remove or relocate the squatters.[9]

Illegal housing

Illegal buildings

23 dead bodies following the collapse of an illegal building in Bellary, Karnataka on 26 January 2010.[19][20]

To meet the demands of people moving to New Delhi, Mumbai and other large cities for jobs, and due to the unavailability of affordable housing, there are many buildings constructed illegally.[14][15][21][nb 1] The buildings are often created quickly. Some builders neither follow proper building practices and laws, nor execute proper safety measures. Poor construction materials are also to blame in these circumstances.[14][15][21] Within the Mumbai region there are estimated to be hundreds of illegal structures that have been built. Sameer Hashmi, BBC reporter, reports that activists "allege that unscrupulous builders often pay hefty bribes to authorities who turn a blind eye to these illegal structures and do not take any action against the builders."[15]

Building collapses

In the wake of the 2013 Thane building collapse that killed 72 people, RT News reported that "...incidents of this kind are not rare in India, where builders often care more for cutting construction expenses than for the security and quality of the work being done."[22][23]

In New Delhi in November 2010 there were 67 people or more killed from the collapse of an apartment building.[21]

Illegal huts or shanties

Huts or shanties built on illegal land are sometimes assembled with brick and concrete, but often made with cardboard, tin and plastic. Hut communities, or slums, may be managed by slum lords, which may have access to water, but rarely sewer facilities.[24] The term "slum" does not in all cases mean that the community is an illegal one; some slums are legal housing communities.[25]

As of 2009 there were about 170 million people living in slums. About 66% of Mumbais residents live in shanties, including about 40% of the city's police force. Mumbai's largest mafia organisation, D-Company, has leased access to public lands that they have gained through squatting.[24]

Political dynamics

Actions and reactions to illegal housing run the gamut from entitlement to eviction. In 1991 a project called "Operation Eviction" of A R Antulay's government, thousands of people from Maharashtra slums were transported great distances from slum home. In the previous decade Arjun Singh, the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, handed out land rights, called pattas, to illegal communities.[9]


Strategies for curbing and managing illegal structures include:

Affordable Housing
Identify and take action on illegal buildings
Development schemes

See also



  1. Legal building construction requires filing of blueprints to municipal agencies, receiving blueprint approval and obtaining permits to connect to electricity, water and sewage services.[21]


  1. Sharad Vyas; Surendra Gangan (4 April 2006). "Wadala slums seek help" (PDF). DNA. Retrieved 25 June 2009.
  2. 1 2 Arun Kumar (2002). Black Economy In India. Penguin Books India. pp. 160–161. ISBN 0143028677.
  3. Jawajee Nagnatham vs Revenue Divisional Officer, ... on 25 January 1994 Equivalent citations: 1994 (1) BLJR 744, JT 1994 (2) SC 604, 1994 (2) SCALE 298, (1994) 4 SCC 595, 1994 1 SCR 368, 1994 (2) UJ 17 SC Bench: K Ramaswamy, N Venkatachala
  4. Contempt Petition No. 28 of 1993
  5. Noorali Babul Thanewala v. K.M.M. Shetty, AIR 1990 S.C. 1994
  6. Amar Bahadurising v. P. D. Wasnik & others. 1994 Cri. L. J 1359
  7. 2007 (210) E.L.T. 658 (P & H) in case of NEELDHARA WEAVING FACTORY Versus DGFT, NEW DELHI
  9. 1 2 3 Nandan Nilekani (2009). Imagining India: The @idea of a Renewed Nation. Penguin. p. 225. ISBN 1594202044.
  10. 1 2 3 Nandan Nilekani (2009). Imagining India: The @idea of a Renewed Nation. Penguin. p. 205. ISBN 1594202044.
  11. Nandan Nilekani (2009). Imagining India: The @idea of a Renewed Nation. Penguin. pp. 170–171, 493. ISBN 1594202044.
  12. Nandan Nilekani (2009). Imagining India: The @idea of a Renewed Nation. Penguin. p. 210. ISBN 1594202044.
  13. Nandan Nilekani (2009). Imagining India: The @idea of a Renewed Nation. Penguin. p. 207. ISBN 1594202044.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 Prakash, Vivek. "Death toll rises to 72 in Mumbai building collapse". Reuters. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  15. 1 2 3 4 "India building collapse near Mumbai kills 45.". BBC News. 5 April 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  16. 1 2 "Govt knew Thane district had 5 lakh illegal buildings, but did little.". Times of India. 6 April 2013. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  17. HT Correspondent (5 July 2011). "Illegal Buildings a big issue in Vasai-Virar.". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  18. Pradeep Gupta (26 October 2012). "Ulhasnagar corporator accused of illegal construction on river bed". Times of India. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  19. "Building collapse: Death toll mounts to 15". The Hindu. January 29, 2010. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
  20. "Mumbai building collapse: Indian police arrest nine". BBC. 7 April 2013. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
  21. 1 2 3 4 "India Arrests 9 People in Fatal Building Collapse". Wall Street Journal. 7 April 2013. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  22. "38 killed as building collapses in India (PHOTOS)". RT News. 5 April 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  23. "Death toll rises to 72 in India building collapse". CNN. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  24. 1 2 Nandan Nilekani (2009). Imagining India: The @idea of a Renewed Nation. Penguin. pp. 205–206, 225. ISBN 1594202044.
  25. United Nations human settlements programme (2003). The Challenge of Slums: Global Report on Human Settlements 2003 (4th edition). UN-HABITAT. p. 92. ISBN 1844070379.
  26. 1 2 3 4 "90% Mumbra buildings illegal or irregular: CM". Times of India. 6 April 2013. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  27. 1 2 Alok Deshpande, Meena Menon (7 April 2013). "Illegal structures abound in Thane (photo of builders)". Mumbai. The Hindu. Retrieved 9 April 2013.

Further reading

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