The Bombay high court on Wednesday sought to know from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) if it was willing to pull down the purportedly illegal additions made to its state office opposite Mantralaya.
“Are you willing to bring down the area of the structure to 2,682 square feet?” the division bench of justice Abhay Oka and justice CV Bhadang sought to know from BJP counsel SU Kamdar. The senior advocate has now sought time to inform the court if the ruling party was willing to demolish additions made to its state office.
Accordingly, the court has now posted a public interest litigation filed by citizen associations from Nariman Point and Churchgate area raising concern over alleged encroachments over a plot of land near Mantralaya for further hearing on Thursday. According to the PIL, the plot has been shown in the development plan for the city as recreation garden and is generally known as Jawaharlal Nehru Garden.
The citizens association has contended that though the plot is reserved for recreation ground, it has been encroached upon and now hosts offices of the BJP and the Janata Dal, as also that of the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) and the Employment Exchange.
Apart from the construction being carried out at the BJP office, the PIL has also taken strong objection to the BJP reserving a huge public parking space for its office-bearers.
The court has also sought to know that if the state unit of the BJP had entered into any agreement with the state government and if it was paying any rent for the land allotted to it by the government. Kamdar is expected to answer these questions also on Thursday.
On Thursday, the counsel for the petitioner body pointed out that originally the state government has allotted 1,200 square feet of land for the state office of the ruling party and it was enhanced to 1,482 square feet in October 1995. But now the office of the party is spread over 9,700 square feet, housing 14 cabins, a conference hall and canteen, bathroom and toilet facilities. The counsel argued that the structure could not be regularised, as it has not been a legal structure, for being constructed on a plot reserved for garden.
Advocate general Shrihari Aney, however, said the land was allotted to the BJP for putting up office and, therefore, it cannot be said the structure is illegal. He pointed out that even the development plan for the city shows the recreation garden with the structure and there were no plans or other documents to show that the structure was either legal or illegal.
Aney said the state government did not agree that the entire structure was unlawful and the BMC should be permitted to take action as regards the unlawful portion.
Kamdar, too, disputed the claim of the petitioner body that the BJP state office was spread over 9,700 square feet and claimed that it was about 4,000 square feet. It was then the court sought to know from him, if the political party was willing to bring down the size of its office to 2,682 square feet — 1,200 square feet originally allotted plus addition of 1,482 square feet made in 1995.