Top Mumbai school converts parking lot into classroom
An RTI query reveals that the BMC has found gross irregularities in JBCN International School's Borivli branch, where parking lots have become classrooms, the swimming pool is illegal and the building itself does not have an occupation certificate. School authorities deny committing an offence, say all construction is in accordance with the law
Catering to the elite, standing five storeys high and boasting of state-of-the-art infrastructure, including air- conditioned classrooms, an in-house swimming pool and more, the JBCN International School in Borivli (W) is caught in the eye of a storm after an RTI response from the civic authorities showed the school had broken several rules to set up shop. JBCN has branches in Oshiwara and Parel as well and has some of India Inc’s biggest names on its board of advisors and as investors.
SUNDAY MiD DAY is in possession of a detailed report submitted by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials, after a site visit, which states that the school’s basement, which was designated as parking space, has been illegally converted in to classrooms, perhaps putting the lives of children in danger.
Further, according to the report, the school authorities have allegedly constructed a swimming pool in the open space without necessary approval and even the administrative office constructed in the entrance lobby is illegal. To top it all the school building is yet to be issued an Occupancy Certificate (OC), which is mandatory before anyone is allowed to occupy the building. Hundreds of students study in this international school.
Battle lines drawn
According to documents available with SMD, the BMC had issued a notice to the school in July 2013 and a reminder notice under 488 of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act dated September 27, 2013, to demolish the illegal structures.
A notice under the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act (MRTP) issued by the BMC earlier this year orders the school to demolish the swimming pool, keeping the irregularities in mind and also to discontinue the usage of the parking area as classrooms.
Manoj Paralkar, who filed the RTI, told SMD that his main concern was that schools such as JBCN, which charge over a lakh as school fees, were openly flouting all rules and regulations, using their contacts and money power. “When a school is illegally making alterations to a pre-approved structure, it amounts to a major safety hazard. I received several complaints from locals and decided to seek the truth under RTI, and the response was truly an eye opener,” said Paralkar.
A senior official of R North BMC Building Proposal Committee, on condition of anonymity, confirmed that notices have been issued to the school authorities, under provision of the law. “We have not issued them the occupancy certificate, but it is the officers from the education department who issue the final license for operating the school,” he said, adding, “Several irregularities and discrepancies have been pointed out after a detailed onsite visit. Subsequently we issued them a notice under MRTP.”
School refutes charges
Despite documentary evidence to the contrary, Tarun Mota, the project architect of the school, stated that they had taken all permissions from the government. His colleague Atul Poopal claimed that the school had provision to construct a seven storied building. “We have only constructed five floors and have offset the extra FSI to convert the ground floor stilt area,” he said. Speaking in support of the school, local MLA Gopal Shetty wondered why the BMC had issued an MRTP notice to the school. “I always support educational institutions and have written to the BMC to withdraw the MRTP,” he said.
School Trustee Kunal Dalal was unavailable for comment. But a spokesperson for the school replied via email. “We have all the necessary permissions in place to run a school. We have already secured the commencement certificate and amended plans for regularising the structure. We did not want our kindergarten children to be disturbed, so we have converted some other spaces into classroom space. But now we are in the process of regularising this,” she said.