After the major fire that charred the Sara-Sahara shopping complex, civic officials fear that the three court cases filed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) against the complex due to alleged illegal practices may no longer exist, a fact that might be used by the society to their advantage to rebuild the shopping complex.
Officials, who have been following up on the litigation that the markets were facing, are trying to correlate the timing of the fire with the Sara-Sahara complex’s pending cases.
Civic officials fear that if the cases are dropped now, the Sara-Sahara shopping complex would come up again. “If the structure comes up again, we will issue fresh notices and they will move court against those notices — a route they have taken on numerous occasions before. Legal battles take a long time to culminate. We are afraid that vested interests will take advantage of the situation and start building here again,” said an A-ward official, requesting anonymity.
It is learned that the shopping complex was accused of three different kinds of illegal practices — godowns had been allegedly converted into shopping complexes, illegal alterations had been made in the structure to add more rooms and illegal structures had been propped up in the gangways. All of these could have led to a demolition, pending a court order to that effect.
A civic official from the legal department said, “Since we were charging them with such grave violations, it was highly likely that we would have our way. If our plea was accepted, the structure would have to be restored to their original states, that is, godowns. Hence, the Sara-Sahara shopping complex would have had to be demolished.”
Additional municipal commissioner Mohan Adtani confirmed the litigations. “We had issued notices to them for violations under the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning (MRTP), Act 1966. We were expecting a favourable verdict.”
On November 29, Adtani had told HT that the civic body would not allow the shopping complex to be developed again.
Another senior civic official, who did not wish to be named said, “In most cases filed under the MRTP, we get a favourable verdict since it is quite easy to prove the violations. In the case of Sara-Sahara too, the violations were aplenty and obvious.”
Wali Shiekh, Sara-Sahara complex’s in-charge refuted allegations of sabotage. “It is true there were legal cases filed by the civic body, the society and the Central Public Works Department but I’m not aware of the proceedings.”
Hinting at the reconstruction of the complex, he said, “The authorities need to be sympathetic to traders and provide all the help they can.”