In relief to actor Kangana Ranaut, the Bombay High Court on Friday quashed and set aside the September 9 order issued by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) directing demolition of alleged alterations carried at her Bandra office.
A division bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and R I Chagla said Ranaut was allowed to take steps to make the bungalow habitable. However, the extent of the demolished portion requires planning permission, which can be taken from BMC.
This means Ranaut cannot do anything contrary to the sanctioned plan, and for portions not demolished she can seek regularisation.
“The BMC order actuated by legal malice. There is material in pleadings that smacks of malafide and was done to cause substantial losses. We would be perfectly justified to order compensation against respondents,” the bench said, referring to photographs of the premise and other material produced before it.
The court appointed valuer to determine monetary damages caused to the actor and pass an appropriate order on compensation.
“We do not accept allegations made by the petitioner (Ranaut) in view of the alleged atmosphere in the state or film industry. The petitioner is suggested to maintain restraint on public platforms. Irresponsible statements made by the citizen are best ignored,” the bench noted.
“We make it clear that this court does not countenance unauthorised construction… we do not approve any statements made by the petitioner,” it said.
The court added, “Whatever be her statements, no action can lie except within four corners of law. Manner in which action was carried out leaves hardly any doubt that it was against the law and was ‘sinister’ to prevent the petitioner from taking legal recourse for the preventive action. BMC has done it with deliberate disregard to the rights of the citizens.” The court said it does not approve of “colourable exercise of power on a person by any authority”.
The bench pronounced a judgement on Ranaut’s petition, in which, seeking to declare the BMC’s action ‘illegal,’ the actor had said the civic body had hurried with the demolition process for ‘ulterior reasons,’ due to her criticism of the Maharashtra government and Mumbai Police.
The BMC, on September 7, issued a ‘stop-work’ notice to Ranaut for alleged illegal construction through the renovation and finishing work under the section 354(A) of Mumbai Municipal Corporation (MMC) Act, to stop the ongoing work inside the premises and produce the permission for the illegal construction. The BMC, on September 8, pasted the notice on Kanagana Ranaut’s Bandra office. It had given the actor 24 hours to file a reply with documentary evidence. In her response to the notice, Ranaut accused the BMC of trespassing on her property and making false claims.
The notice had stated that during inspection of the bungalow on September 5 by a Mukadam (supervisor) and another inspection by the executive engineer of the BMC on September 7, it was found that there were 14 unauthorised alterations and additions to the bungalow contrary to the sanctioned building plan, and same was carried out without permission of the concerned ward officer of the BMC.
On the morning of September 9, after the BMC started demolition work, Ranaut urgently approached the HC through advocate Rizwan Siddiquee against the action by the civic body.
Through urgent hearing, which started at 12.30 pm the same day, the High Court stayed the demolition. “If BMC would act with similar swiftness in respect of the numerous unauthorised constructions, the city would be a completely different place to live in,” the HC had said at the time. It restrained BMC from undertaking further demolition work at the property till further orders.
On September 10, BMC, through senior counsel Aspi Chinoy and advocate Joel Carlos, said Ranaut was carrying out “substantial alterations” to her Bandra property “contrary to sanctioned plan”, and the demolition was justified and without any “malafide”.
Thereafter, on September 15, Ranaut amended her plea and sought Rs. 2 crore as damages for BMC’s action. On September 18, the BMC told HC that Ranaut’s claims for compensation for the partial demolition of her Pali Hill property were “baseless” and “bogus”. However, on September 21, Kangana denied BMC’s allegations.
On September 22, the court had asked Ranaut to make Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut and Bhagyavant Late, a designated officer of BMC H-West ward, as parties to the case. This came after the HC noted that since she had submitted a DVD of statements made by Raut, he should be given an opportunity to be heard, and the BMC officer can also respond to allegations.
On September 24, HC said it “cannot leave Kangana Ranaut’s Bandra office to remain in a partly demolished state during monsoons”, and began regular hearing on the actor’s plea from the next day.
On September 25, the HC said it would examine if the structures demolished at the actor’s bungalow were under construction, or had existed earlier after the actor’s lawyer senior counsel Birendra Saraf informed it that there was “no ongoing work” on the premises. Saraf said BMC’s action was malafide, arbitrary, and had “ignored every provision of law”.
The court sought to know why the BMC had invoked Section 354 (A) of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation (MMC) Act, pertaining to issuance of a “stop work” notice for an ongoing construction or other work at a site, and not the Section 351 that pertains to “completed unauthorised work” but prescribes giving enough notice to the owner of the property to file a reply.
To this, the BMC had submitted that work was indeed taking place at Ranaut’s property during detection and inspection on September 5 and 7, respectively, and hence the civic authority was justified in considering it as a continuation of alterations and additions done in the past, and invoking Section 354 (A) of the MMC Act. Chinoy had also denied that the demolition was at the behest of Raut.
When the HC asked Ranaut to substantiate her claims that she had been abused by Raut, Saraf played a clip of an interview of Raut to a TV channel, where he was heard using foul language, which Saraf said referred to Ranaut.
Raut did not mention the name of Ranaut when he used the expletive to describe a “girl”, his lawyer advocate Pradeep Thorat on September 28 told the HC, after the Court asked him to clarify if his client had used an abusive word against the actor.
However, on September 29, the HC said that while it did not agree with actor Kangana Ranaut’s tweets against the state government and the Mumbai Police, Raut should have shown “grace” and restraint while responding to her.
The observations were made by the bench after the court examined Raut’s affidavit in which he admitted that the expletive that he used in an interview to a television channel was directed at Ranaut.
Senior counsel Anil Sakhare, appearing for BMC’s designated officer, said Ranaut had made vague allegations and did not have a case on merits. He added that since she was unable to prove the case on facts or laws, she alleged malafide and tried to divert the attention of the court.
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