Mumbai: A 4X4 sized shop located outside the Metro Unity Cooperative Housing Society was demolished by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on January 16, despite the Bombay High Court orders to preserve the rights of the respondent, Mohammed Azmi Ibrahim Multani.
The civic official involved in the demolition had disclaimed knowledge of any such order, even as Azmi has alleged pressure from a civic engineer, who conducts classes in the housing society, resulting in the demolition.
The shop has been owned by Azmi’s family since 1955 and the licence was issued by the BMC till 2020. “Despite complying with the licensing procedure, the shop was demolished on January 16 without any notice. We tried to inform the civic official about the HC orders during the process, but he did not listen,” said Azmi. “I have 13 dependents in my family and this shop was my only source of income. This conflict has ruined my life,” claimed Azmi.
“A BMC engineer in the roads department, Upendra Kudva, wants the building to be redeveloped. This shop was proving an obstacle,” said a shopkeeper involved in the issue. Kudwa owns three flats in the building, where he reportedly conducts engineering classes during office hours, flouting civic service rules.
“If there is an HC order, the shopkeepers should have shown it to us,” said a civic official in-charge of demolitions. According to a copy of the Bombay High Court order dated October 10, 2017, which The Free Press Journal has, “The structure that falls beyond compound wall and the boundary, and which obstructs the gate of the building, should be removed”. But the order also says, “Removal of the structure would not affect the rights of respondent.”
Azmi claimed he had complied with the court’s order to remove the structure in front of the entry gate. “However despite compliance, the BMC demolished my entire shop.” A copy of the BMC affidavit, in the possession of Free Press Journal, also claimed the structure was removed (by Azmi) and there was no need for any further action.
“Still the action was conducted by the BMC and it was on behalf of Kudwa, who has tremendous influence in the BMC,” said a shopkeeper acquainted with the issue. “How is Kudwa still in the BMC, despite cases, enquiries and the Lokayukta report of corruption against him?” Said another shopkeeper, “This is not possible without tremendous influence and any other official would have been sacked.”
A First Information Report (FIR) was filed by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Mumbai, last year against Kudwa for disproportionate assets. He was also recently named in road scams and the Lokayukta has questioned him for conflict of interest — being a civic official and teaching in a private institution.
Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar had, in November, 2018, also written to the chief investigating officer of the BMC, Rajendra Relekar, regarding the serious charges against the official. “But no action has been taken against him,” said a shopkeeper.