On 9th September, the Bombay High Court while granting relief to Actress Kangana Ranaut has stayed the demolition of the alleged unauthorized structures of her office at Palli Hills in Mumbai, hours after the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had started the exercise.
Sushant Singh Death Controversy
Kangana Ranaut had been in headlines for her constant support on Sushant Singh Rajput’s death which has created a massive controversy. Apparently, Ranaut took to Twitter while stating that she was feeling unsafe after Rajput’s death in Mumbai and stated that Mumbai felt like Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK).
“Sanjay Raut Shiv Sena leader has given me an open threat and asked me not to come back to Mumbai after Aazadi graffitis in Mumbai streets and now open threats, why Mumbai is feeling like Pakistan occupied Kashmir?” Kangana had tweeted.
Soon after her tweet, a politician from Shiv Sena, Sanjay Raut had in an interview, called Kangana Ranaut ‘haramkhor ladki’ for her statements. Reacting to the same, Kangana on her official Twitter account posted, “In 2008 Movie Mafia declared me a Psycho, in 2016 they called me a Witch and Stalker in 2020 Maharashtra Minister publicity gave me the title of Haramkhor Ladki because I said after a murder I feel unsafe in Mumbai, where are INTOLERANCE debate warriors?” Recently, Kangana was also given Y-plus security by the Centre due to the ongoing controversy.
BMC’s demolition drive at Kangana’s office in Mumbai
In 2017, actress Kangana Ranaut has purchased the premises of Bungalow No. 5 at Pali Hill which is listed as a residential property by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). In January 2020 she initiated the renovation work at Pali Hill for her office, ‘Manikarnika Films’. However, on 7th September, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has served Kangana Ranaut with a ‘stop work’ notice under section 354(A) of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation (MMC) Act, alleging unlawful construction in the premises of her office at Pali Hill. The BMC gave 24-hour time to the actor to file a reply while directing her to stop the ongoing renovation work on the premises and produce the permissions for the “illegal” constructions.
“If you fail to stop the execution of work forthwith or if stopped and fail to produce permission within 24 hours, I shall under Section 354(A) and in the exercise of powers and functions conferred upon me as aforesaid without any further notice cause the said building or work to be removed or pulled down, at your risk and cost,” read the notice.
The BMC team that inspected Ranaut’s office on 7th September, listed 14 instances of illegal construction at the ongoing renovation and finishing work inside the bungalow. They stated that the renovation was “beyond the approved plan” and the violations embodies – merging of two bungalows, changing a ground-floor restroom into an office cabin, changing a storeroom right into a kitchen, making an unauthorized pantry within the floor flooring, including bathrooms close to the storeroom and a parking space, unlawful partitions in first flooring front room, an unlawful assembly room within the pooja room, changing a balcony right into a liveable space apart from a flooring extension, and so forth.
Nonetheless, the Mumbai civic body went ahead with the demolition even though a hearing against the said decision was going on in the Bombay High Court and even before Ranaut could reach Mumbai. Later, the demolition was halted mid-way by a stay order from the Bombay High Court after the actor has challenged the notice by the Brihanmumbai Corporation. However, a BMC official stated to the sources that by the time the HC had issued the stay order, BMC had already demolished the “majority of the unauthorized additions and extensions.”
Subsequently, the actor took to twitter and responded “There is no illegal construction in my house, also the government has banned any demolitions in COVID till September 30, Bullywood watch now this is what Fascism looks like #DeathOfDemocracy.” She further posted a video message stating “Uddhav Thackeray Tujhe kya lagta hai? (what do you think?) My home was demolished today, your arrogance will crumble tomorrow. Thus, is the wheel of time, it keeps changing.”
Also, Kangana tweeted photos and videos of the demolished structures at her office, calling the BMC action “death of democracy”, and comparing the civic body to “Babar ki army” and her office to “Ram Mandir”.
Bombay High Court’s response on BMC’s intention over demolition work
Kangana, who at the time of demolition was not in Mumbai, had approached the Bombay HC through her lawyer Rizwan Siddique seeking interim relief and to prevent the ‘illegal, arbitrary and mala fide’ demolition. She claimed that the BMC action was ‘aftermath over the difference of opinion with certain influential individuals operating in the administration’.
Subsequently, a division bench of Bombay High Court comprising of Justices S J Kathawalla and R I Chagla directed an urgent hearing through video-conference on the actor’s plea filed through advocate Rizwan Siddiqui. The court directed a stay on the demolition and had asked the BMC to file a reply while citing its action to be ‘mala fide’. Further, the court also questioned the BMC’s notice and observed that “it is clear without question that the works which are ‘unauthorized’ have not come up overnight. However, out of nowhere, the corporation appears to have overnight woken up from its slumber, issued notice to the petitioner, that too when she is out of the state, directing her to respond within 24 hours, and not granting her any further time, despite the written request, and proceeding to demolish, on completion of 24 hours.”
“We cannot help but mention here that if the MCGM (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai) would act with similar swiftness qua the numerous unauthorized constructions, the City would be a completely different place to live in,” the court added.
Further, in its 10-page order, the court noted that while the petition was put up before it at around 11.30 AM and was taken up for hearing at 12.30 PM, for the first 10 minutes, no one appeared for the BMC. The bench also noted that the BMC appeared to be “trying to waste the time of the court and in the meantime complete the demolition.” While citing that the BMC’s action “prima facie does not appear to be bonafide and smacks of malafide” and directed the civic body to file an affidavit in response to Ranaut’s plea seeking interim relief of stay on the demolition work.
Subsequently, on Thursday, the BMC told the Bombay High Court that actor Kangana Ranaut had been carrying out “substantial alterations” in her Bandra property “contrary to the sanctioned plan” and its action of demolition of these structures was justified and without any “malafide”.
Nonetheless, the court went on to adjourn the matter for further hearing on September 22 after Ranaut’s counsel Rizwan Siddique sought time to respond to the BMC affidavit. Meanwhile, the court’s order restraining BMC from undertaking further demolition work at the property will continue till then.