The illegal modifications made to shops owned by senior politicians, including deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, are not the only irregularities in the Sukhada and Shubhda housing societies in Worli.
Details emerging from the two societies show how the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which has now served them notices, had colluded with these politicians and bent rules to facilitate construction of the building.
Documents available with Hindustan Times show how the civic body approved convenience shops with 75% more area than what is permissible under the development control regulations (DCR). These shops finally came to be used by senior state-level politicians such as Pawar, former deputy chief minister Gopinath Munde, and state congress chief Manikrao Thakre, among others.
According to the DCR, 1967, a convenience shop can only be 20 sqm in area. However, the BMC approved shops measuring 35 sqm. These shops were later illegally merged with each other.
Lawyer YP Singh, who has been fighting the battle on behalf of activist Amit Maru, said such violations were not permissible. "Since this building is under the coastal regulation zone (CRZ), the BMC can't permit any exceptions under the DCR to convenience shops. Hence, as a rule, they must be 20 sqm and not an inch more than that."
This isn't all. The two buildings have not even been given an occupation certificate (OC). The OC is a mandatory part of a building's construction and is a document which signifies that home owners are allowed to occupy the structure.
Both buildings, however, have a partial OC. "A partial OC is given when the structure doesn't fulfil some conditions, or it hasn't paid certain premiums. The owner is then told to rectify the errors in a limited time frame. If this isn't done, the building is considered illegal," said architect Pankaj Joshi.
Shubhda's chairman and former state Congress chief Ranjit Deshmukh refused to comment on the issue. State forest minister Patangrao Kadam, who is the secretary of Sukhada housing society and has been served a notice for converting his shops into a gymnasium, said, "I am in Sangli. This a minor issue and I will speak about it when I'm back on Monday."
While Pawar wasn't available for comment, Munde said, "Though the space was allotted to be used as a shop, I have been using it as an office to meet the public. I have not made any modifications. As for the accusation that the verandah has been enclosed, I have only fixed a temporary glass wall to prevent dust from entering the office."