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HC asks if BMC demolished only ongoing construction

The Bombay High Court on Friday asked if all the structures at actor Kangana Ranaut’s bungalow which the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) demolished on September 9 were under construction, or if they existed earlier.

A division bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and R I Chagla, hearing the actor’s petition against the demolition, also asked why the BMC pulled down several structures on the ground floor.

As per the BMC, Ranaut had carried out several alterations without permission at her Pali Hill bungalow here, which were first noticed on September 5.

The court wanted to know whether alterations, illegal or not, existed prior to that, because under section 354 A of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, the BMC can stop only “ongoing” illegal construction.

Ranaut has already stated in her amended petition that she had photos from a pooja ceremony conducted in January 2020 and photos from Elle Dcor magazine issue of April-May 2020 which show that demolished portions existed back then.

Therefore, the BMC’s allegation that illegal work was going on was false, her plea said.

The actor maintained that she did not carry out any illegal construction, and whatever alterations were made, they existed prior to the BMC’s action.

Ranaut’s lawyer, senior counsel Birendra Saraf told the bench on Friday that when the civic body served a demolition notice, only some waterproofing work was going on, and she had the requisite permissions for it.

“Notwithstanding the fact that there has never been any illegal work carried out, the portions that the BMC has said to be ongoing illegal construction, existed prior to when the illegality was allegedly detected,” Saraf said.

He also pointed out that the photos submitted in court by the BMC on Friday did not have any digital time stamp but only a note dating them to September 5.

The court asked senior counsel Aspi Chinoy, who appeared for the BMC, to ask the BMC officer who took the photos to submit his phone to the court, so that it can be ascertained when the photos were taken.

“We will be examining whether this work was an ongoing work,” the court said and asked Ranaut’s lawyer to inform, on the next date, whether all demolished portions existed in the same form in January 2020.

The court also noted that the BMC in its affidavit had said that Ranaut had changed the position of the entrance of the ground floor, but many more things on the ground floor were demolished.

“What we are thinking is, how was the ground floor demolished if there is no ongoing work there. The only thing shown is that the position of the entrance gate is changed, there is no ongoing work shown on the ground floor.

“Whatever they have alleged in the affidavit regarding the ground floor, is all already done (in the past). So how was the ground floor demolished,” it asked.

Saraf said the entire action was malicious, which was proved by the fact that the BMC took action after Ranaut made some critical remarks about the Maharashtra government.