By Staff Reporter
In a significant legal development, the Karnataka High Court, under the leadership of Justice Krishna Dixit, has taken cognizance of a writ petition (WP) challenging the constitutional validity of Section 22 of the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) Act. On July 31, 2023, the bench issued notices to both the state government and Karnataka RERA in response to the petition.
Section 22 of the RERA Act outlines the prerequisites for the appointment of the chairperson and members of the Authority.
According to advocate Sameer Sharma, who lodged WP No. 15645 of 2023, the members of Karnataka RERA do not include individuals with a judicial background.
As stipulated in this section, the appointment of the RERA chairperson and other members is to be carried out by the appropriate government based on recommendations from a selection committee.
This committee is composed of the Chief Justice of the High Court or their representative, the Secretary of the housing department, and the Law Secretary.
While the section doesn’t explicitly outline the qualifications for members, it mandates that officials must possess substantial knowledge and professional experience across multiple domains, including infrastructure, housing, real estate development, and urban development. This expertise requirement entails a minimum of 15 years for members and a minimum of 20 years for the chairperson.
The petition contends that Section 22 warrants judicial examination, as it lacks provisions requiring the presence of a legal or judicial member within RERA.
Both the Supreme Court and High Courts have established that a judicial member is essential for fulfilling adjudicatory duties. However, Section 22 of the RERA Act doesn’t impose such a condition.
The petitioner seeks the annulment of Section 22, arguing that the method of appointing RERA members through a selection committee diminishes judicial independence, a fundamental aspect of the Constitution.
Representing the Union of India, M.N. Kumar informed the High Court that the Bombay High Court had already addressed the matter in the case of Neelkamal Realtors Suburban Pvt. Ltd. Vs Union of India and others in 2017. Thus, he posited that it need not be reexamined by the Karnataka High Court.
Counter-arguing, Sharma contended that the Bombay High Court ruling overlooked pertinent Supreme Court precedents on the matter.
Taking these submissions into account, Justice Krishna Dixit remarked that the issue demands careful consideration. The bench instructed the Additional Government Advocate to acknowledge the notice on behalf of the state of Karnataka, with an urgent notice also dispatched to Karnataka RERA.