The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, the civic body of Greater Mumbai, told the Bombay High Court on Monday that actor Kangana Ranaut had made illegal changes to her Bandra bungalow, which was partly demolished on September 9, and was claiming that it was done because of her statements against the Maharashtra government, Live Law reported.
Senior Advocate Aspi Chinoy, representing the civic body, said that the actor was presenting herself as someone who has been victimised and harassed.
“However, the reality is that the petitioner has carried out unauthorised structural alterations. She would have us believe that all this [demolition] is the reaction to her public utterances and statements. It is the reverse side of the coin. She has made unlawful changes and is claiming demolition to be a response to her utterances.”— Senior Advocate Aspi Chinoy
Ranaut had sparked a row after she 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. Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut had hit back at Ranaut and asked her not to return to Mumbai after her comments on security in the state.
At Monday’s hearing, Chinoy said that Ranaut did not admit deliberately that there were any alterations made in her bungalow and added that the actor also did not state the time when these alterations were made. He said that records show Ranaut had made illegal alterations on her property but the actor has refuted them.
“She says no work is being done, whereas three days ago our inspection revealed work in progress, with six workers present at the site along with machinery, etc,” Chinoy said.
Advocate Birendra Saraf, who is representing Ranaut, interjected, saying that her client could not submit certain details as she was not in the city. “In this day and age, when you can tweet all the way from Manali, you can surely tell your advocate when the work started,” Chinoy replied.
Meanwhile, the High Court also pulled up the civic body, saying that something smelled “fishy” when it came to the demolition works, PTI reported. The court said that the BMC did not follow its own practices of attaching photos of the illegal construction and the stop-work notices and also that of waiting for a few days before beginning the demolition work.
“How come in the system, demolition is not shown on 8 [September]?” the High Court asked, according to Bar & Bench. “It is only when we asked for the file [on the demolition work that] it is prepared.” The bench added that in cases of similar irregularities in buildings close to Ranaut property, the BMC had waited for several days before taking up the demolition. In its last hearing on Friday, the High Court had asked the BMC whether it always acts with the same swiftness to demolish other unauthorised structures as it did with actor Ranaut’s bungalow.
The bench also asked why a police team was taken for the demolition. BMC’s H Ward officer Bhagyawant Late, who is a respondent in the case, replied that Ranaut’s case was a critical one. “What is the definition of critical cases?” the court then asked. “In cases of celebrities, it becomes a critical case?”
Saraf argued that the way the BMC team arrived on September 7, issued a stop-work notice, and subsequently rejected Ranaut’s reply to it before carrying out the demolition, showed the action was vitiated by malice.
“Malice in law will be when you try to achieve an unlawful purpose, extraneous purpose,” Chinoy replied. “Where is the unlawful purpose in acting against unauthorised construction?”
Saraf urged the court to make sure that the damage to the actor’s property was evaluated by a qualified person and a fair compensation is decided. Ranaut has sought Rs 2 crore as damages from the BMC.
The High Court said it will resume hearing in the case on Tuesday and will hear Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut’s submission. He is also a party in the case. Ranaut has alleged that Raut used abusive language towards her.
The Bombay High Court had on Friday 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. It also asked the 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.
On Thursday, the court asked Raut to respond to Ranaut’s plea against the demolition. The bench also directed the 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.