Karnataka High Court Rules on Legality of BWSSB Charges: Beneficiary Capital Contribution Charges Deemed Illegal

Karnataka High Court declares certain BWSSB charges illegal, upholds others. Ruling impacts NOC applicants, citing quid pro quo principle.

The Karnataka High Court has delivered a significant ruling regarding certain charges imposed by the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB). Sobha Limited and five others brought the matter to the court's attention by filing a petition. They sought a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and were faced with a demand for various charges by the BWSSB.

The court's decision came down to distinguishing between the legality of different charges. Justice M Nagaprasanna, in his judgement, emphasized the principle of "quid pro quo" in fee structures. He remarked, "But, when it comes to a fee, the element of quid pro quo becomes sine qua non." This statement encapsulated the essence of the court's decision.

The court declared the demand for Beneficiary Capital Contribution Charges and Greater Bangalore Water Sewerage Project Charges as illegal. These charges were contested by the petitioners, who argued that they were unconstitutional and in violation of Article 265 of the Constitution of India. The court found merit in their contention and ruled in their favor.

However, the court upheld the demand for Advance Probable Pro Rata Charges and Treated Water Charges for Construction. BWSSB defended these charges, citing legal provisions empowering them to demand such fees for construction projects seeking NOCs. The court found these charges to have legal support and thus upheld them.

One particular issue addressed by the court was the levying of Beneficiary Capital Contribution Charges from residents in 110 newly added villages. BWSSB argued that these charges were necessary to cover the cost of infrastructure exclusively for multi-storeyed buildings. However, the court disagreed, stating that the argument lacked statutory provisions to support it.

Justice Nagaprasanna's parting remarks shed light on the complexity of the situation. He acknowledged the dissatisfaction expressed by the petitioners, noting, "Hue and cry are so loud by the petitioners that they are not willing to pay any charges, as they are not receiving any benefit from the board." However, he also highlighted the essential service provided by BWSSB, stating, "...sewerage is also a service by the board. If the board does not maintain sewerage, it would undoubtedly result in chaos."

The Greater Bangalore Water Sewerage Project Charges, applicable since 2008, range from Rs 5,000 to Rs 24,000 depending on the property area. Similarly, the Beneficiary Contribution Charges (BCC) apply to 110 villages added to BBMP limits in 2008, starting at Rs 5,000 for residential houses up to 600 sq ft.

BWSSB defended the imposition of these charges, stating they were approved by the government to ease the financial burden on the board. The board had invested significant funds, over Rs 5,000 crore, to provide water to these areas, justifying the need for these charges considering the extensive infrastructure required for water supply.