The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had lodged a complaint with the Versova police against Patliputra housing society in Andheri over a year ago, alleging misuse of space given to a shopping complex on the plot. However, the case has not progressed any further, according to documents obtained through a Right To Information (RTI) application filed by activist Santosh Daundkar.
Questions are being raised whether this is because about 50 bureaucrats and senior police officials, including former chief secretary and currently upa-lokayukta Johnny Joseph, home secretary Umeshchandra Sarangi, MMRDA chief Rahul Asthana, municipal commissioner Subodh Kumar and senior police official Satyapal Singh are members of the society.
Patliputra has two 13-storey residential towers and a shopping complex. In July 2010, Kamdhenu shopping complex, a part of the society that is on a 99-year lease with the Mumbai suburban collector, was issued a notice under the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act (MRTP) for changing the use of space, using free FSI of the basement without the permission of the BMC.
“The Kamdhenu owner has merged 12 shops into one on the first floor, two shops into one on the first floor and the ground floor in a super market. Our notice makes it clear that they need to restore the space,” said Assistant Municipal Commissioner of Andheri (west) Ramesh Pawar who served the notice a year ago.
After no response from either the complex or the society, the BMC lodged a complaint with the Versova police station in October 2010. The owner can be arrested without a court warrant once an FIR (first information report) is lodged. However, no FIR has been lodged yet. State finance secretary Vidyadhar Kanade, who is the secretary of Patliputra, expressed surprise about the notice. “The premises has been leased to Kamdhenu but I do not know any details. I am unaware of any notice,” he said.
Chairman of the society and former law secretary Pratima Umarji said: “I am completely in the dark on this. However, if they are at fault we will get it corrected immediately. They will have to stick to the lease agreement.”
However, both the society members and Kamdhenu owners remained discreet over the deed between the society and the complex. According to government sources, the 5,667 square metre plot was given to the society members in 1999 under government rules that 15 per cent of the land could be used for commercial purposes, to make the project viable.
According to former police officer and lawyer-activist YP Singh: “It is shocking to see that law makers are law breakers here. It is questionable why the notice was sent on the name of Kamdhenu when it is part of the Patliputra society and the office bearers of the society need to be brought to book”. He alleged that more than 15 per cent FSI has been used commercially by merging the free FSI into the shopping mall.
Daundkar said: “There is certainly more than what meets the eye. There has been no movement from the BMC and the police for one year. Also, there is no clarity about the financial understanding between the mall and the society… such viability options must be considered for slum rehabilitation projects as well.”
Senior police inspector of Versova Police station Sharad Borase said the case had not progressed because the BMC has only sent a complaint and no official was physically present to lodge the FIR.
The BMC, on its part, has lobbed the ball in the police’s court. “The BMC action is completed with the lodging of the complaint,” Pawar claimed.