Forest official Makarand Ghodke, investigating comedian-actor Kapil Sharma’s case of illegal expansion at his Versova office was reinstated more than a month after he was transferred to a desk job.
Ghodke was looking into alleged destruction of mangroves by Sharma and 60 similar cases in the SV Patel Nagar area of Andheri (West) when he was transferred. The government maintains the transfer had nothing to do with the cases he was probing.
A government notification issued to the state mangrove cell on Monday announced a new post, that of assistant conservator of forest, mangroves protection unit, was created for Ghodke. “The earlier notification for Ghodke’s transfer had nothing to do with his performance or activities related to Kapil Sharma or any other case. It was just an unintentional error, it has been corrected by the government and status quo has been restored,” said N Vasudevan, the chief conservator of forests, state mangrove cell.
On October 25, Ghodke was transferred to the desk job of a statistician at the office of the chief conservator of forests in Thane. This happened after he submitted a report to the Mumbai suburban collectors’ office in September about destruction of mangroves by Sharma. On September 18, the Andheri tehsildar, or revenue official, ensured an FIR was filed against Sharma by the Versova police for violating the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
According to the state mangrove cell, Ghodke led the campaign to remove 3,500 encroachments from mangroves across Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane, with cases against MPs and MLAs. The officer also identified people who made illegal extensions of properties, with some residents dumping debris and others treating the area as their backyard. This is a violation of a Bombay high court (HC) order from 2005, which bans any construction within 50 metres of mangroves.
Soon after his transfer, non-profit organisation Watchdog Foundation had written to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and the state forest department, demanding an explanation as to why the officer who had first identified several violations had to be relocated.
“We are happy the chief minister took cognisance of upright officers and welcome the government’s decision,” said Godfrey Pimenta, trustee, Watchdog Foundation. “Now, the violations by the Andheri (West) residents and Kapil Sharma need to be exposed and brought to the fore by this officer.”