Mumbai: Royal family's posh pet clinic is illegal, says BMC

Civic body issues show cause notice to Crown Vet after finding unauthorised construction

Crown Vet offers three surgery rooms, separate kennels for dogs and cats for post operative care, diagnostic imaging equipment, a radiology department and a full fledged pathology lab. File Pics
Crown Vet offers three surgery rooms, separate kennels for dogs and cats for post operative care, diagnostic imaging equipment, a radiology department and a full fledged pathology lab. File Pics

South Mumbai's posh pet clinic, Crown Vet, is in a royal mess after it was revealed to be running without necessary permissions. The clinic – a dream project of the royal prince of Baroda – is now in danger of being razed to the ground by BMC, which has issued a notice over unauthorised construction on the premises.

Crown Vet is owned by Prince Pratapsinh Gaekwad and Princess Pragyashree Gaekwad of the royal family of Baroda – both are well known animal lovers. The facility is spread across a spacious 4,500 square meters below the Mahalaxmi Station bridge, and was launched amid much fanfare on April 25, last year. Before its launch, however, the clinic had a hairy beginning.

Twice bitten, not shy
Documents available with mid-day show that the BMC had already demolished the clinic twice while it was still under construction in January and March 2016. "On January 1, 2016, we had issued a stop work notice to the clinic. Since they were not able to produce documents for the construction, we took demolition action on the galas on January 14, 2016," said a senior BMC official.

"After getting complaints from locals that the illegal work was ongoing, the local ward office once again took demolition action on March 3, 2016."

Strike three
On March 3, the civic body issued a show cause notice to Crown Vet for its illegal occupation of gala number 27 and 28 and the unauthorised construction there. The owners have a week to explain why the clinic should not be pulled down, and to provide documents to support their claim on the premises.

According to officials, the galas below the Mahalaxmi Station bridge fall under the Vacant Land Tenement (VLT) category, which means the land is owned by the BMC and only the civic body can lease it out. Also, as per VLT land norms, the land cannot be subleased to a third party. However, documents show that Crown Vet is a third-party tenant that took the land on lease from Bombay Surgical Works.

The notice was issued by the Building and Factory department of the G-south ward (Worli, Mahalaxmi) under Section 351 of the MMC (Mumbai Municipal Corporation) Act (which gives power to the civic body to take action against unauthorised structures).

Unhappy client
The notice was issued two days after a complaint was filed by Colaba resident and animal lover, Nandini Suchde. Ironically, the complainant Nandini was once the clinic's client, but had a bitter experience after one of her dogs – a Golden Retriever named Junior – died within 24 hours of being admitted at the facility. Apart from highlighting the illegal construction by the clinic, she has also levelled allegations of medical negligence. "I lost my baby (Junior) because of Crown Vet.

Pratapsinh and his wife are doctors and are well aware of medical ethics and laws, but they intentionally violated those laws," alleged Nandini.

"A person like Pratapsinh Gaekwad, who is well educated and well aware of the laws, has opened a hospital in the heart of the city without proper permissions. The land is supposed to be allotted as a godown, but Crown Vet has turned it into a hospital, which is absolutely illegal," she added.

The clinic ran into further trouble after Shiv Sena leader Abhijit Patil complained to the local ward office that the construction work could cause damage to the Mahalaxmi Station bridge. "Along with Crown Vet, there are more illegal structures being constructed rampantly. The bridge is from the British era and the illegal construction is damaging the bridge's structural integrity. Officers from the local ward office are in hand-in-glove with these illegal occupants. Even after several complaints no concrete action has been taken," he alleged.

The other side
Pratapsinh Gaekwad refuted all the allegations and said, "Ours is one of the best animal hospitals and we have ensured all the necessary permissions for the clinic. There is no risk to bridge's structural stability. I don't know about any demolition action, since we are in an agreement with Bombay Surgical Works, which is the original tenant of gala number 27 and 28. The notice was issued to them and they have replied." However, mid-day has a copy of the notice, in which Crown Vet was named.

"Our legal team is going through the papers and matter is in court. We will file reply before the court," he said, while adding, "The complainant is targeting us even though we did our best to save her pet. For over 20 hours, our team of specialised doctors tried every possible thing."

BMCspeak
Assistant Municipal Commissioner Bhagyashree Kapse said, "Crown Vet has illegally occupied the gala; Bombay Surgical Works is the original tenant of the gala as per the VLT records. Crown Vet has violated VLT land norms. We had taken demolition action against the clinic twice in 2016. I also issued a fresh notice on March 3 to Crown Vet. I don’t know about latest developments, as I have since been transferred."

Allegations

  • Land can only be leased out by BMC
  • Crown Vet has a third-party lease, which is illegal 
  • All construction there is automatically illegal
  • The structure is a risk to the British-era Mahalaxmi Station bridge 
  • Complainant also alleged medical negligence

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