Park politics

Published: Monday 31 March 1997

Park politics

The city of Mysore in Karnataka has become the scene for an interesting battle royal. In contention is the People's park in the heart of the city, fought over by the Mysore Grahakara Parishat (MGP), a local organisation initiated by a few residents of Mysore, and the municipal corporation. The corporation had decided to build a public library inside the park by felling 124 trees. As the Karnataka Parks Act, 1985, does not allow construction of any building inside a park, the MGP filed a public interest litigation in the Karnataka High Court in 1995.

In 1990, the corporation had leased a part of the park to a private developer, Revathi Enterprises, for 30 years for setting up a commercial complex. In return, he war to build a library free of cost. When the MGP found out that the developer had acquired this property worth more than Rs 11 crore for less than Rs 80 lakh, it organised a people's court in November 1995 to expose the politicians, bureaucrats and other officials who had obviously been bribed by the developer.

The MGP had obtained a stay order against the felling of trees in the park. But the private developer was able to get the stay lifted. The company also slapped a contempt case against the Parishat's activists for exposing the sordid deal through local newspapers. The contempt case dragged on for almost a year. Finally, the MGP had to give an assurance that it will not indulge in any activity that would be detrimental to the developer's interests. This effectively ensured that the MGP is unable to agitate openly or issue press statements for fear of committing contempt of court.

The original case against the corporation is still in the High Court. Meanwhile, more than too trees were felled in the park, soon after the High Court lifted the stay. The government might soon give the green signal to the developer to build a commercial complex in the park.

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