HC mulls probe against officials who ‘protected’ illegal structures, including Nirav’s Alibaug bungalow
The Bombay high court on Tuesday said it proposed to order an inquiry into the conduct of senior revenue officials from Raigad district in purportedly protecting several illegal bungalows along the Alibaug coastline, including one belonging to fugitive businessman, diamantaire Nirav Modi.
The division bench of justice Abhay Oka and justice Riyaz Chagla said they will order the principal secretary of revenue department to hold the inquiry himself or through some other high-level official into the conduct of the collector, Raigad and the sub-divisional officer (SDO), Alibaug, in purportedly protecting the illegal structures.
Acting on a public interest litigation, last week the court had sought an explanation from the collector, Raigad, and the sub-divisional officer, Alibaug for arbitrarily closing all cases involving illegal constructions within Coastal Regulatory Zone along Alibaug coastline, primarily bungalows owned by the rich and famous from Mumbai. The bench had taken the bungalow owned by fugitive businessman Nirav Modi at Kihim as a test case. Modi is wanted in connection with the Rs13,500 crore fraud at state-run Punjab National Bank.
The bench was expecting corrective measures by the collector after passing strictures on the conduct of the SDO, who had closed all the cases of illegal bungalows merely noting that the owners were moving the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) for getting the structures regularised.
The judges, instead, noticed that the collector had gone ahead a step and stated in his affidavit that Nirav Modi’s bungalow was constructed prior to 1986 and there was no excess construction over and above the sanctioned plan, and therefore there was no question of taking any action against the same. Besides, the revenue officials had also tried to express inability to act against Modi’s bungalow on the ground that the structure was under attachment by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Alibag-based social organisation Shambhuraje Yuvakranti had brought the issue of illegal constructions along the Mumbai-side shoreline of Alibaug tehsil – primarily in Saswane, Kihim, Awas, Thal etc., villages to the notice of the court.
In a public interest litigation filed through advocate Uday Nighot, the petitioner body complained that over 175 bungalows, owned by industrialists and prominent businessmen from Mumbai, were constructed along the shoreline in no-development zones like the area between high tide line and low tide line and within 200 metres of the high tide line. Under the Coastal Regulatory Zone, no construction can be made in these areas.
The collector has stated in his affidavit filed earlier that in the case of Modi’s bungalow, permission was granted to construct the house admeasuring 376 square metres, but actual construction was made to the extent of 1,071 square metres and instead of removing the excess construction of 695 square metres, the SDO closed the case and referred the matter to MCZMA.