MUMBAI: Bombay high court on Friday rained several questions on the municipal corporation to know how and why it had demolished the ground floor of actor Kangana Ranaut’s bungalow in Bandra if there was no ongoing work as she contended. And were the multiple men or just a solitary workman doing essential water proofing work?
Kangana’s counsel Birendra Saraf started by submitting that BMC’s action was “vitiated by malice.”
Saraf said “The petition challenges exfacie illegal and high handed action of the corporation. Every procedure known in law and in the statute books were thrown to the wind. Even the guidelines of the Courts have been breached. She had ideological differences with the people in power which has lead to this malicious action for extraneous purposes.”
The main question that may play out in court is should the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) really have used the more stringent section 354A of its Act which gives just 24 hours before demolishing any ongoing unlawful work, if unexplained and not stopped after notice, or was the work already complete in January as she said, lawfully, and BMC if at all could then rely on section 351 which provides for seven days to enable the alleged violator time to respond and rectify.
A bench of Justices Shahrukh Jimi Kathawalla and Riyaz Iqbal Chagla were well prepared having read up her petition, the replies and counter replies along with annexures. Pointing to one list of other alleged illegal structures detected, the bench reiterated its question from Tuesday, to special civic counsel Aspi Chinoy, Anil Sakhare and Joel Carlos, “We want to know if demolition has taken place in those cases with same swiftness?’’
BMC meanwhile in a sur-rejoinder said the actor had initially “not denied” the “unlawful alterations” mentioned in the demolition notice and said her specific denial in a rejoinder was both, “belated and false”. It also submitted photographs to show the presence of “five workmen” and material present that shows “work was going on” when civic officers went to inspect.
Saraf with advocate Rizwan Siddiquee, for Kangana said, ”BMC has at every stage tried to improve its statement’’. Saraf said there was no such detection on September 5 as alleged by BMC and the first detection report is of September 7. He also said details in the report were sketchy, there was “no sketch, no photographs, no entry in detection register though mandated.
Justice Kathawalla observed, “even on day one they did not show photos’’ adding that it was his “understanding’’ that section 354A ought not to have been resorted to.
Saraf said, “ When statute conveys drastic power it requires great responsibility.’’ He also said had she got proper notice she would have consulted an expert.
Chinoy said what was demolished was not in the sanctioned plan. He also said the demolished part is “not open to the skies’’ and there would be “no rain ingress’’. Justice Kathawalla said he saw one broken window.
On September 9, in the morning, BMC’s squad swooped in to demolish part of allegedly “ongoing unlawful additions and alterations contrary to sanctioned plans’’ hours before her scheduled arrival from Manali.
Siddiquee said the BMC officer had refused to accept service of her petition that day and went on with the demolition.
Her contention is that the demolition was a “mala fide’’ counter blast by BMC which is led by Shiv Sena whose president is also the Chief Minister, as she was at “logger heads with the government’’ over her outspoken comments.
HC will hear the matter on September 28 now.

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