Razed and raised: A lesson from Dongri on mocking the law

The building had permission for only four floors, but has become an 11-storey structure. The smug owner has now allowed tenants to move into it

Building no. 11 on Keshavji Naik Road in Dongri is a mockery of the law. The 11-storey building has been the B-ward’s sore point since last year. Originally a g+4 structure, it has been demolished twice. But that hasn’t stopped the owner from raising it again; now, even tenants have moved inside.

Building no. 11 on Keshavji Naik Road in Dongri, which has today become an 11-storey structure. Pic/Sameer Markande
Building no. 11 on Keshavji Naik Road in Dongri, which has today become an 11-storey structure. Pic/Sameer Markande

Ward officials are in the process of initiating the demolition proceedings again. They have appointed a demolition contractor, who will undertake the job soon.

Dongri, notorious for being the cradle of the D-Company, has always been a hotbed of illegal activities. Nefarious businesses, banned substances and everything that is a reminder of Mumbai’s gang war era exists here. There is also rampant illegal construction.

Builder pays no heed
According to data from the ward office, the BMC detected illegal construction on building no. 11, owned by one Ibrahim Motiwala, in September 2015 after demolishing it earlier. It found that the ground floor of the building was being constructed again. The civic body issued a notice to them under Section 354 of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act the same day. It then sent letters to the local police station, asking for protection during demolition proceedings, but since it was the festive season, police personnel were diverted elsewhere. Taking advantage of this, the owner continued with the construction.

On October 3, the owner submitted some documents before the ward office, which only went on to prove that the original structure had permission for just four floors. A notice under Section 52 of the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning (MRTP) Act was issued on October 9. That same day, under police protection, the ward staff demolished the first five floors. The sixth and seventh floors, and the slab of the eighth were demolished on October 26.

Bid to get a free pass
Despite this, the construction resumed. Another stop work notice was issued on October 28. Prior to this, the owner moved court, demanding a stay on the demolition proceedings, saying he had only undertaken tenantable repairs. On October 7, the court refused to pass a stay order, saying, “…[where] this structure is concerned, plaintiff (Motiwala) has not sought permission from any competent authority. Therefore, such construction cannot be protected in the court of law… Plaintiff has not made out any case and, therefore, not entitled for the relief of ad interim injunction.”

Contempt of court
The BMC claims that despite the court order, eight floors were constructed illegally again. Alleging contempt of court, it filed an FIR under the MRTP Act this January.

“The building is completely illegal. They do not have the necessary permission from the ward or the building proposal department. Our legal department has scrutinised their documents and has given us the go-ahead [for demolition]. There is no stay from the court. Even the commissioner has asked us to demolish it. If the building collapses in the monsoon, who will be responsible? The building abuts railway tracks. What if it falls on a train?” asked Assistant Municipal Commissioner UM Shiroorkar of B-ward.

Asked how the building was allowed to be constructed in the first place, he said he had taken charge just a few weeks ago and that he would not be able to comment on his predecessor’s tenure.

The other side
Abdul Rehman Motiwala, the owner’s son, said, “We have permission for four floors and tenants are staying there already. When we approached the court, the then BMC public prosecutor had demanded a bribe from us and we got her arrested. I think somebody is seeking revenge for that.”

Asked whether they have any document to show that the building is legal, Ibrahim Motiwala tried to deflect the blame, claiming that there are other illegal buildings in their area. “I can name at least nine others. Then why am I alone being targeted? BMC should demolish all.”

Neither the father nor the son could produce any document to prove that the building is legal. They did not even deny the illegality of the construction.

“Our tenants are already living there. We’ll approach the court to bring a stay on the demolition. If needed, we will go to Supreme Court. The monsoon is approaching and you can’t evict families like this,” the father said.

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