Sale, conversion of orchard land will be criminal offence

PANAJI: Sale and development of orchard land will now be a criminal offence and could soon attract imprisonment of one year, town and country planning (TCP) minister Vijai Sardesai said. Claiming that 20 lakh square metres of land had been illegally converted across Goa, Sardesai stated that an amnesty period was being given to those who had illegally developed land to seek conversion from the board by March 31, 2018.
“We are of the opinion that there is a need to amend the Town and Country Planning Act so as to have criminal liability for people who are doing illegal development of orchard land,” he said. “Therefore we are suggesting that the liability for person getting involved in illegal land development of orchard land should be one year simple imprisonment,” the minister said.
He said the TCP department would move an amendment in the coming winter session of the state assembly to pass the amendment.
“We are trying to move the amendment in the winter session. In any case the budget session has been moved ahead so even that is possible. Latest by the budget session but we will try our best. I have given the department seven days to move a concept note and to move the concept note in the assembly. We can even move an ordinance if required but I don’t see the need,” Sardesai said.
He said for those people who bought orchard land and developed homes in good faith they would get the opportunity to present their case before the board and seek legal conversion of the plots.
“To ensure that he does not suffer, we have thought of having an amnesty period till March 31, 2018. These people who converted the land and built houses and are staying in them, these people have to approach the board and we will consider the merit and give them conversion,” he said.
The board will address each case based on merit and the conversion will be given only if the land is not in an eco-sensitive zone. “We will not give conversion if it is low-lying area, a mangrove, khazan land, paddy field, or slope or other eco-sensitive zone. We are saying for this, Section 17 of the TCP we will take up case to case conversion of land for legal development, legal conversion,” Sardesai said.
“The imprisonment is to act as a deterrent for illegal land development. Now to facilitate legal conversion, we are saying that the parties can approach the TCP board and genuine cases will get conversion on the condition that it is not eco sensitive area or sloppy area,” he said.