Mumbai: 'BMC's swift action suggests there was political pressure,' says High Court

Updated: 10 September, 2020 07:10 IST | Team mid-day | Mumbai

Sena-run civic body's decision to demolish Kangana Ranaut's home office after her vitriolic attack seems so harebrained that even Sharad Pawar, MVA ally and master tactician, is irked

The local ward office carried out the demolition on Wednesday morning. Pics/Shadab Khan
The local ward office carried out the demolition on Wednesday morning. Pics/Shadab Khan

After the war of words between actor Kangana Ranaut and Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, the action in the ugly drama following Sushant Singh Rajput's death moved on ground, with the BMC initiating demolition of the actor's office it deemed illegal. Ruling partner Sharad Pawar said the timing of the action will raise more questions than answers.

The civic body started demolishing the alleged illegal constructions done at actress Kangana Ranaut's Pali Hill office on Wednesday morning but was stopped in its tracks by the Bombay High Court by noon which issued a stay order.

The demolition team and police seen outside Kangana Ranaut's office on Wednesday. Pic/Shadab Khan
The demolition team and police seen outside Kangana Ranaut's office on Wednesday. Pic/Shadab Khan

Meanwhile, there were 52,154 complaints against illegal structures across the city between January 2016 and July 2019, as per BMC's reply to an RTI application. Till last year, the BMC acted on 12,157 complaints.

On Wednesday, a team from the H West ward broke the wall and gate of the office during the demolition. Ranaut had approached the court challenging the notice and sought a stay. The high court also questioned the BMC on why it entered the property when the owner was not present at home.

Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar
Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar

An inspection of the office was done on Monday and a stop-work notice was pasted outside it on Tuesday morning. The notice was served under Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act which gives citizens 24 hours to produce relevant permissions.

On Tuesday evening, Ranaut's lawyer, in his reply to the BMC, asked for more time for the actress to furnish relevant information. On Wednesday, the corporation stuck a fresh notice saying it was not satisfied with the response and that the demolition will be carried out at her own risk and cost.

NCP chief and MVA architect Sharad Pawar said on Wednesday, "The timing of the demolition would raise doubts in the current situation (the actor's row with the Shiv Sena). I do not know the nature of the structural illegality of the office space and illegal work isn't a new thing in the city."

Opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis said, "This is an act of revenge and cowardice. You cannot use government force to maim a person who speaks against you. This has never happened in the history of Maharashtra and the people here will never accept such an act."

Also Read: Bombay HC stays BMC's demolition at Kangana's property, asks civic body to file reply on actor's petition

94k plaints in 43 months

In its reply to an RTI application by activist Shakil Ahmed Shaikh, the BMC said they have received 94,851 complaints of illegal structures in the past three years.

In the span of 43 months from 2016 to 2019, 42,697 were duplicate complaints. Out of the 52,154 unique complaints, maximum complaints were received from L (Kurla) ward at 4,966. K west (Andheri W, Vileparle W) ward received 3,680 complaints and P North (Malad) ward had 3,690 complaints.

The corporation closed 7,230 complaints without notice and issued notices to 21,873 structures. Out of these, 5,461 structures were demolished and 12,157 complaints were closed till July 2019.

"Shiv Sena is taking action against Ranaut's office just to retaliate. There were so many disasters due to illegal constructions — Kamala Mills fire, Bhanu Farsan Mart, Hotel City Kinara, Sai-Siddhi buildings. But the BMC is not keen on taking action against these illegalities," said Shaikh. He added that the BMC spends at least R20 crore on demolitions annually. And annually, an average of 15,000 structures are served notices, while demolition is carried out against 10 to 20 per cent of them.

14 booked for protests

While local police were deployed at the actress's office during the demolition to prevent law and order problems, a DCP rank officer was a part of the team that escorted the actress from the airport to her Khar residence.

"It is our duty to protect every citizen and we are committed to it. After her arrival, there were a lot of people protesting against her so we escorted her from another gate of the airport," a senior IPS officer told mid-day.

Police teams continue to be deployed at the actress's office and residence.

Khar police also registered a case against 14 people for unlawful assembly and violating the lockdown as they protested against BMC's demolition drive outside the office. According to the police, they were allegedly brought by a national TV news reporter to demonstrate in support of Ranaut. The protesters came with placards with the slogans #BharatForKangna #IndiaForKangna #WarriorsForSSR. "We are investigating the role of a journalist who brought them at the spot for his coverage. The TV channel was carrying the news with the same hashtags as seen on the protesters' placards," the officer added.

No quarantine

Mayor Kishori Pednekar said that BMC's action is for the illegal structure and there is nothing wrong in it.

Also, P Velarasu, additional commissioner, said that the actress was exempted from quarantine as there is an online exemption application stating that she is on a short visit. Since she is staying for less than a week, she is exempted under the short term visitor category.

21k
Approx. no. of plaints that resulted in BMC notices

20%
Approx. proportion of plaints that resulted in demolition annually as per an RTI activist

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First Published: 10 September, 2020 07:04 IST

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