Mumbai: BMC may have to rebuild Kangana Ranaut's office if move backfires
If the actor can prove in court that the structure was legal and authorised by civic body, she will be entitled to damages
The BMC may have to redo the demolished parts of actress Kangana Ranaut's Pali Hill office if she establishes that the construction was authorised, say legal experts. Experts added that the high court's stay on demolition of buildings until September 30 is not applicable to Kangana's office.
Senior criminal lawyer Dinesh Tiwari said, "If the demolition is found illegal, the BMC will have to reconstruct the structure and pay damages. The BMC's act is of political vendetta, the possibility of heads rolling under public pressure cannot be ruled."
Senior property lawyer Vinod Sampat echoed similar concerns. "BMC should adopt a uniform policy. There are times when notices are issued and for years together, they sleep on them. One fails to understand the hurry shown in this case. This act appears to have been done due to political pressure," Sampat said.
On the HC stay
Sampat also clarified, "The argument that the demolition could not have been carried out due to a Bombay High Court order staying demolition till September 30, does not hold because the order is applicable only to those cases which have a stay issued earlier. Ranaut's property is neither C1 nor dilapidated. She did not get an order from court before BMC issued the notice. Hence, the ward office's action can be held as justified."
The BMC stuck a fresh notice at Kangana Ranaut's Pali Hill office on Wednesday. Pic/Shadab Khan
"The BMC has power to take action against unauthorised constructions after a notice is issued. They can enter a premises forcibly to take action as per the due process of law. Also, the presence of the owner is immaterial as, under the BMC Act, owners are occupiers of the premises and their representatives present are caretakers, to whom the notice is binding," he said.
Modifications get regularised
Advocate Godfrey Pimenta of the Watchdog Foundation said, "The BMC usually does its homework in such matters. However, not giving sufficient time to the party concerned to present his/her side is unheard of, unless there's some influence."
Also, alleged 'illegal' modifications are usually regularised at the Building Proposal Department by paying requisite charges. "If the architect does not make a submission in this regard, which is the case here, it is sufficient reason for BMC to take such uncalled abrupt action," Pimenta said.
He added that the haphazard act of the H West ward cannot be selective. He gave the instance of Behrampada, Bandra East where slums have grown vertically to fourth- and fifth-floor levels, where fires have also occurred but action is not taken as it impacts vote banks.
Cops deployed outside Kangana Ranaut's residence in Khar ahead of her arrival. Pic/Ashish Raje
It has also been alleged that the demolition team damaged parts which were not illegal, furniture and fixtures for which the actor's lawyer is expected to file a criminal and civil case.
At Bombay HC
A writ petition was filed in high court before the division bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and R I Chagla by Ranaut's lawyer, Rizwan Siddique. The BMC was represented by senior lawyer A Y Sakhare. The court observed that the sketch in the notice is unclear and the unauthorised work cannot be seen.
The court observed that Section 354A of the BMC Act (invoked in the September 7 notice), sets out the 'power of Commissioner to stop erection of building or work commenced or carried on unlawfully.' The court observed that from the works set out in the notice, it is clear that the unauthorised works have not come up overnight.
"However, all of a sudden, the Corporation appears to have overnight woken up from its slumber, issued notice to the petitioner, that too when she is out of the State, directing her to respond within 24 hours, and not granting her any further time, despite written request, and proceeding to demolish the said premises upon completion of 24 hours," the court observed.
It further observed that the manner in which the BMC acted, prima facie smacks of malafide. It asked the BMC to respond by 3 pm on Thursday.
"We cannot help but mention here that if the MCGM would act with similar swiftness qua the numerous unauthorised constructions in this city, the city would be a completely different place to live in," the high court concluded.
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