Victory for RTI activist in battle against former CM's son-in-law
Apex court orders razing of structure built by Manohar Joshi's relative on land reserved for municipal school
For the last 13 years RTI activist and journalist Vijay Kumbhar was fighting a lone battle. His tenacity in carrying on despite all the odds finally came to fruition yesterday when the Supreme Court upheld the high court's decision to demolish an 11-storey building that had come up on a land reserved for a municipal school.
What made the decision even more special for Kumbhar was that he was able to come up trumps against a builder who was none other than the son-in-law of former Chief Minister Manohar Joshi.
Triumphant: Vijay Kumbhar, journalist and RTI activist who won the
case. Pic/Krunal Gosavi
"Bhagwan ke ghar mein der hain andher nahin (God may delay answering your prayers, but he never fails you)," said a jubilant Kumbhar. The 11-storey Sun Dew Apartments building on lane 15, Prabhat Road, was constructed by Girish Vyas in 1998. The land was reserved for school by Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) in its development plan. It was alleged that by using Joshi's influence the reservation was shifted elsewhere, and the land was used for a lavish residential structure.
Soon to go: The 11-storey building on Prabhat Road that is to be
demolished soon. Pic/Krunal Gosavi
After the Bombay High Court ordered Vyas to demolish the building in 1999, he appealed in the Supreme Court. The high court judgment on March 15, 1999, had compelled Chief Minister Manohar Joshi of Shiv Sena to resign.
"Now, the Supreme Court has asked Vyas to demolish the structure in the next two weeks and hand over the place to the PMC. If not, then the PMC is to demolish the structure and recover the demolishing cost from Vyas," said Kumbhar. "This judgment may deter other politicians and builders from using government land reserved for social causes."
Kumbhar said neither the PMC nor the state supported himr. Earlier, a compromise was arrived at by the PMC, the government and the builder that instead of demolishing the building, two flats in the building should be handed over to the civic body. "Mahesh Zagade, former municipal commissioner, was the only person who insisted in the Standing Committee that the building should be demolished entirely," said Kumbhar. "Zagade was an honest officer and was subsequently transferred by the ruling party."
Kumbhar said initially Congress corporator Nitin Jagtap had supported him, but he withdrew his petition later. "I was so insecure that I had to leave the city for some time after I was hit by a bike and lost a teeth," he said. "I am sure it was a murderous attack on me at that time."
Sagar Nangre, IT professional working in a firm next to the controversial building, welcomed the Supreme Court's decision. "Why did the PMC allow this big a building to come up in a peaceful middle class area? The court has taught a lesson to the politicians by this order," he said. Ramesh Shelar, head of anti-encroachment department, PMC, was however not aware of the Supreme Court verdict. "We will be ready with our demolishing squad after the order officially comes to me," he said.