Kangana’s office razed: Do you show same swiftness in demolishing other unauthorised structures, HC asks BMC

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Updated on Sep 26, 2020 01:26 AM IST
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ByK A Y Dodhiya, Mumbai

The Bombay high court (HC), while questioning the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on whether it has acted with the same swiftness in demolishing other unauthorised structures, asked why section 351 of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, which stipulates granting sufficient time to the owner to explain about completed unauthorised work, was not invoked. The question was asked to BMC after the court was informed by actor Kangana Ranaut’s counsel that there was no ongoing work on the premise when it was detected and inspected by the BMC’s mukadam and officer on September 5 and 7, respectively, yet section 354 (A) of the Act which pertains to ongoing work was invoked.

The court has further asked BMC to produce the phone of the mukadam who detected the unauthorised construction in the bungalow of actor Kangana Ranaut on September 5 to verify whether photographs of the alleged ongoing unauthorised alterations and additions were taken based on which the inspection of the bungalow was prompted on September 7.

While arguing that the demolition undertaken by the civic authority was out of malice, senior counsel Dr Birendra Saraf submitted that no actual construction work was going on at the time of the inspection by the executive engineer on September 7.

A division bench of justice SJ Kathawalla and justice RI Chagla, while hearing the petition of Ranaut which sought a stay on the demolition undertaken by BMC at her Pali Hill bungalow on September 9 and compensation of 2 crore for the damage caused during the demolition, was informed by Dr Saraf that the unauthorised alterations and additions as alleged by BMC in its notice were completed in 2019. Dr Saraf submitted that the same could be proved by photographs of the pooja held by the actor at the bungalow in January 2020.

He submitted that as Ranaut was a public personality, and had taken to social media to criticise the government on its handling of various issues, she was targeted by Shiv Sena chief spokesperson Sanjay Raut. Dr Saraf added that the demolition was prompted at the behest of Raut as she countered and confronted him on social media.

Pointing to various discrepancies in BMC’s September 10 and 17 affidavits filed in response to the actor’s petition on September 9, Dr Saraf submitted that there were a lot of contradictions in BMC’s stand, and hence, it should be asked to provide details of the detection, inspection and stop-work notices issued as well as show evidence of actual work going on.

Senior counsel Aspi Chinoy who represented BMC along with advocate Joel Carlos, submitted that the contentions being raised by Dr Saraf were not done earlier which showed that the actor was trying to improvise as she had not denied the unauthorized alterations and additions pointed out in the BMC notice. Chinoy further said that while only two demolished toilets were open to the sky the rest of the demolition was internal.

After hearing the submissions and going through the evidence submitted by the actor and BMC, the court observed that advocate Pradeep Thorat’s client (Sanjay Raut) had indeed done what he said (Ukhad Diya). The bench then sought to know why demolition was done on the ground floor when there was no ongoing work and asked the BMC to give details of the workmen who were allegedly carrying out the alterations when the premise was inspected.

The court then asked both parties to argue their cases in a time-bound manner and keep their written submissions ready so that hearing could be expedited and posted the matter for hearing on Monday, September 28 at 11am.

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