The Bombay High Court asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation on Friday whether it always acts with the same swiftness to demolish other unauthorised structures as it did with actor Kangana Ranaut’s bungalow, the Hindustan Times reported. The court was hearing Ranaut’s plea against the demolition, which includes her demand for Rs 2 crore in damages.
The court also asked how the ground floor of the structure was demolished, even though there were no alterations made to it as per the inspection report of the BMC, Live Law reported. It also asked BMC why it did not proceed against Ranaut under provisions of the law that would have required it to provide the actor sufficient time to respond to the charges against her.
The court’s observations came after Ranaut’s lawyer Birendra Saraf told it that the BMC had invoked Section 354 (A) of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act to initiate action against the actor’s building. The section pertains to ongoing work at a construction site. Saraf told the bench that there was no ongoing work at the premises.
The High Court asked the BMC to produce the phone of the mukadam who detected the unauthorised construction in Ranaut’s bungalow on September 5, to verify if the photographs of the alleged unauthorised alterations were taken on that day.
Saraf alleged before the court that the demolition was carried out not because the construction was unauthorised, but with malice, due to the actor’s differences with people in power, including ideological differences.
“The timing of the action clearly shows that there is ‘malice in fact’ and ‘malice in law’ on the part of the authorities,” Saraf alleged. “She has displeased a party in power with her open views. She had to face life threats and had to seek special protection.” The Narendra Modi-led central government had earlier this month granted Ranaut Y-grade security.
“[Shiv Sena leader] Sanjay Raut has made derogatory statements against Kangana in TV channels,” Saraf told the court. “He said that Kangana needs to be taught a lesson. On the same day that Raut made the remarks, an officer [mukadam] from the BMC visited and entered the property without prior notice. The timing of the visit assumes relevance.”
The Bombay High Court had on Thursday asked Raut to respond to Ranaut’s plea against the demolition. The bench also directed the BMC’s H-ward officer Bhagyawant Late to file his reply to the petition.
Late had signed the demolition notice served to Ranaut on September 7. On the other hand, on September 22, Ranaut’s lawyer Birendra Saraf submitted in court a DVD containing a speech in which Raut allegedly threatened Ranaut. The bench comprising Justices SJ Kathawalla and RI Chagla then allowed Ranaut to make both Late and Raut parties to the case.
On September 18, the BMC asked the Bombay High Court to dismiss Ranaut’s plea seeking damages. The municipal body called Ranaut’s plea an “abuse of the process of law”. The court had already stayed the demolition.
The actor is in the middle of an escalating row with the Maharashtra government. The controversy began after Ranaut claimed that Mumbai felt like Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and that she feared living in the city. She had also criticised the Mumbai Police for its handling of actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case. Sanjay Raut had hit back at Ranaut and asked her not to return to Mumbai after her comments on security in the state.