As the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation on Wednesday took it upon themselves to demolish actor Kangana Ranaut's Mumbai office for unauthorised construction, many have taken to social media platforms to express their ire. And while some lament the "death of democracy" others called for the demolition of Priyanka Gandhi's Shimla home.
And while this is a strange takeaway to have from the entire controversy, many have decided to respond by urging the Himachal Pradesh government to "demolish" the Congress leader's home. Incidentally, this trending hashtag has also been amplified by those with verified Twitter handles and thousands of followers.
Going by comments on the social media platform, many are vehemently in agreement. "This is illegal house (sic)," proclaimed one user.
"Yes how can Priyanka Vadra construct house in Shimla while there is clearly written in Section 118 of Himachal Pradesh Land Reforms Act that no outsider can buy any land in Himachal Pradesh," wondered another.
And even if one sets aside the fact that people who are condemning the demolition of Kangana's office want the home of another person destroyed, there seems to be a bit of a disconnect with the facts here. You see, it is not completely "illegal" for outsiders to own a house or cottage in the state.
"Section 118 of the H.P. Tenancy and Land Reforms Act, 1972 provides for restriction on transfer of land in favour of a person who is not an agriculturist of the State," says a Compendium released by the Revenue Department of the Government of Himachal Pradesh.
Those wishing to purchase property can do so with certain limitations. As in IANS report from 2017 notes, under Himachal’s land laws, outsiders who want to purchase a house or a cottage from a builder whose project lies within the municipal limits do not have to seek individual permission under Section 118 as the builder will procure all relevant permissions.
The report quotes a revenue official to add that for housing projects outside the municipal limits has to seek normal permission from the Deputy Commissioner concerned. “If you are buying the land in chunk, then only permission from the state cabinet is required under Section 118. In most cases, it is granted to the colonisers only,” the official was quoted as saying.
Reportedly, a non-Himachali could buy a maximum of up to 450 metres for residential purposes and 275 metres for commercial purposes by following normal procedures.
Is Priyanka Gandhi's house an illegal construction?
While the process which made her house construction possible may invite criticism, Priyanka Gandhi's Himachal house does not seem to be an illegal construction. As per reports, the Congress government in 2007 had relaxed norms under Section 118 and given Gandhi permission to buy the land. Reportedly, she had later, during the BJP regime (when Prem Kumar Dhuman was the Chief Minister), been given permission to buy additional land close to the residence.
Reportedly, State Congress leader Vidya Stokes had played an important role in helping the Vadras buy the three-and-a-half bigha (one bigha is 0.4 hectare) agricultural plot for around Rs 47 lakh.
(With inputs from agencies)