Mumbai: Embarrassing the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for its demolition of actor Kangana Ranaut's bungalow in September, the Bombay high court on Friday held that the action smacked of mala fide. The HC said the action on part of the civic body was unauthorised and bad in law.
The HC also appointed a valuer, who has been ordered to survey the demolition site and after hearing both the BMC and Kangana, finalise a compensation amount, which would be paid by the civic body for its illegal action.
A bench of Justices Shahrukh Kathawalla and Riyaz Chagla, while quashing the BMC demolition notice served to Kangana, ordered the actress to seek permission from the civic body if she wished to reconstruct the razed portions.
The bench extensively discussed the material on record - right from the first inspection of the bungalow till the demolition action. They even took into account the open threat to Kangana by Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut for her comments on Mumbai; further the news reports carried in the Sena mouthpiece Saamna, headlined, 'Ukhaad Diya', regarding the demolition.
Notably, the actress, before arriving in Mumbai, had openly challenged Sena leaders, daring them to stop her from entering the city.
Having considered all this, the judges said, "The civic body's conduct lends credence to Kangana's case that demolition action was mala fide and was predetermined with a view to cause injury to her before she could reach Mumbai on September 9, in retaliation to her tweet saying she has been openly threatened by Sanjay Raut and concluding the said tweet by questioning 'why Mumbai is feeling like Pakistan-occupied Kashmir ?”
The judges, having considered the material placed on record, said, "The evidence, indicates that the action of demolition smacks of mala fides."
The judges further opined that the powers under the law to demolish an illegal structure are framed with an aim to stop 'ongoing illegal work' with a notice and its removal if the work goes on despite the notice.
"The purpose is not demolition of unauthorised work already carried out. The state action of demolition of the bungalow, in the present case, is thus clearly for a purpose not authorised by the law. There is no reasonable or probable cause or excuse for the state action complained of and it has been carried out, as we shall demonstrate presently, wrongfully and wilfully," the bench held.
The observation was made after giving out a conclusion that the alleged illegal construction in Kangana's bungalow existed much prior to the BMC's notice and wasn't being carried out at the relevant time.
"Anything which is not authorised by law and which infringes a citizen’s rights is wrongful on the part of the state. Even assuming that the subject structures were illegal and amounted to unauthorised works, it was Kangana's right to show cause why it should not be removed, altered or pulled down," the judges noted.
Further, noting the 'swift' manner in which the BMC had pulled down 40 per cent of the bungalow, the bench said, "leaves hardly any manner of doubt that the purpose for using the demolition law the instant case was not only unauthorised but more sinister than that, namely, to prevent Kangana from takng recourse to her legal remedies."
"The BMC, which is an organ of the state, has done something 'without lawful excuse'; it has proceeded to act 'wrongfully and willfully without reasonable or probable cause'; its act can only be described as a deliberate act in disregard of the rights of a citizen," read the judgment authored by Justice Kathawalla.
"The true object of the act clearly appears to be to reach an end different from the one for which the power was entrusted to it. The exercise of power can be summed up as bad in law and lacking in bonafides. It is nothing but malice in law," the bench held.