New Delhi: By the time the Bombay high court stayed the demolition effort suddenly undertaken by the BMC at actor Kangana Ranaut’s bungalow in Mumbai, reports say that most of the damage was done.
Justice S.J. Kathawalla, hearing a petition filed by Ranaut, sought to know from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation how it entered the premises when the owner was not present. No less than 50 officials, along with demolition equipment, were involved in the operation.
The BMC has alleged that alterations at the building were illegal. However, the timing of such a demolition drive, which came after a political row between Ranaut and politicians of the ruling party suggests some sort of vendetta for her strong comments. The civic body is dominated by corporators belonging to the Shiv Sena which has been publicly criticising Ranaut for her comments on Mumbai.
Mumbai: Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials carry out demolition at Kangana Ranaut’s office. pic.twitter.com/aepwSeFePb
— ANI (@ANI) September 9, 2020
For the past few days, the actor, who is vocal with views that align themselves to the BJP, has been locked in a war of words with Mumbai’s political leadership.
In the aftermath of actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s passing, she had recently compared Mumbai to “Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.” Her back and forth with Shiv Sena leaders led her to announce that she was unsafe in Mumbai, following which the BJP-led Centre accorded her Y-Plus security cover.
On Wednesday, September 9, the BMC began the demolition as Ranaut travelled to Mumbai from Manali in Himachal Pradesh. While the BMC said it had inspected the premises two days ago, the actor has alleged that the BMC notice informing her of this was only sent to her on September 8.
Paid sources of Maha government are spreading fake info,BMC never sent any notice to me until yesterday,in fact I got all the documents cleared myself from BMC for renovations. @mybmc at least have the courage to stand by your audacity 🙂 why lie now? pic.twitter.com/CVUQGxkNiS
— Kangana Ranaut (@KanganaTeam) September 9, 2020
The BMC, the country’s richest municipal corporation, is headed by a Shiv Sena mayor, Kishori Pednekar. The Sena has had control of the body for over two decades now.
In 2016, on the same day, September 9, comedian Kapil Sharma tweeted that he had to pay Rs 5 lakh as bribe to the BMC for alterations to his office in Versova.
I am paying 15 cr income tax from last 5 year n still i have to pay 5 lacs bribe to BMC office for making my office @narendramodi
— Kapil Sharma (@KapilSharmaK9) September 9, 2016
The tweet garnered immediate attention and replies by then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
— Devendra Fadnavis (@Dev_Fadnavis) September 9, 2016
The BMC followed up by sending Sharma a letter in which it asked for details on the functionaries who had asked for the bribe.
However, as the days progressed, BMC took the line that construction on Sharma’s office was illegal and that constructions on the DLH Enclave in the northern suburb of Goregaon, where he had a flat, was illegal and the building would have to be razed.
A PTI report of that time says that the notice for the latter had been sent on April 28, 2016, under section 351 of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act. The notice for the Versova office was sent on July 16, 2016, asking Sharma to stop construction on a commercial property on land marked as residential.
The plot was near the mangroves, a Coastal Regulation Zone II area, and BMC had alleged that forest land had been cut to make way for a second storey in the 4,000 square-foot building. On September 18, nine days after Sharma’s tweet, the Andheri tehsildar (revenue official) ensured that an FIR was filed against Sharma by the Versova police after the mangrove cell submitted a report to the collectors’ office, Hindustan Times had reported. Fifty-three criminal cases were filed against owners of other bungalows in the area.
Indian Express reports that by December of that year, Sharma was booked under the Environment Protection Act, the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act 1966 and also under the Indian Penal Code for failing to report to the Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau that a public servant had demanded a bribe – the exact allegation he had tweeted about.
The BMC also backed its notices to the comedian over the Goregaon building in subsequent court appearances after Sharma filed a petition challenging the notice issued to him. Deceased actor Irrfan Khan too had a flat in the same Goregaon building and had received a similar notice.
Progress in both these cases, however, stopped making news since early 2017.
Shah Rukh Khan
In 2015, the BMC demolished a concrete ramp constructed outside actor Shah Rukh Khan’s house, Mannat. The ramp was reportedly used to park his vanity van, but according to a report by Hindustan Times, it obstructed movement to the popular Mount Mary Basilica.
Khan reportedly received the notice on February 6 and when he did not respond to it, the BMC led the drive on February 15. Khan was also fined nearly Rs 2 lakh for the construction.
In 2017, the BMC demolished a makeshift gym built by actor Arjun Kapoor on the terrace of his Juhu building. A notice in March was followed by the demolition in December.
A Times of India report notes that the complaint to BMC was made not by a resident of the building but an activist who does not live in it.
The structure was reportedly 30 by 16 feet and was made of brick.