The Bombay High Court on Wednesday reserved its order on a plea filed by actor Sonu Sood challenging a civil court order that had dismissed his petition against a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) notice for allegedly carrying out structural changes to a residential building in Juhu without permissions. The actor had sought a stay on the notice issued by the BMC in October last year.
A single-judge bench of Justice Prithviraj K Chavan concluded hearing on the actor’s plea and reserved its order. The HC had, on January 11, continued till January 13 the stay on the civil court order that had dismissed his plea against the BMC notice.
The City Civil Court in Mumbai on December 19 had also restrained the BMC from taking coercive action against the actor for three weeks. The court had continued this interim relief till January 13.
Sood had moved the High Court challenging the civil court order. Sood and his wife Sonali, in their petition filed through advocate D P Singh, said they did not carry out any “illegal or unauthorised” construction in the six-storey Shakti Sagar building.
On October 27 last year, the BMC had issued a notice under Section 53 (1) of the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act to the Soods, giving them a month’s time to restore the property as per the original plan or get approval for changes made.
Challenging the civil court’s order of December 19, Sood contended that the court “ought to have considered that the notice was issued by the complainant (BMC) who is hell-bent on causing harm to the property of the appellants if at all its illegal demands are not satisfied”.
He also stated that the BMC notice was in contravention of provisions of the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act. Sood contended that the notice was issued with “malafide intent” and was “nothing but blackmailing tactics issued at the behest of the complainant (BMC)”.
Describing the actor and his wife as “habitual offenders”, the BMC told the court on Tuesday that the couple wants to “enjoy the commercial proceeds of their unauthorised work” and therefore, has again started reconstructing the demolished part of the Shakti Sagar building in Juhu to run it like a hotel.
The BMC, in its affidavit filed as response to the plea, added, “The entire hotel is being run without even the mandatory license under Section 394 of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act and accordingly, prosecution has been lodged by the public health department, BMC.”
On Wednesday, advocate Amogh Singh for the actor submitted that the notice issued by the BMC was ‘vague’ and did not mention the nature of alleged alterations. He also said that the BMC officer had not passed a ‘speaking order’ to actor’s reply to the notice and Soods had approached the High Court apprehending further demolition.The Actor submitted that he could not avail clearance from the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority as it was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
While refuting claims by the BMC that neither the property card nor revenue record of the building disclosed the actor’s name and only reflects name of predecessor of the property, Singh denied the same and claimed that the property was mortgaged with Standard Chartered Bank, which would not have given loan without checking the title of the property.
He further submitted that the property is used for ‘social purpose,’ and during the lockdown period, the rooms were used to provide accommodation to the police force.
Senior Counsel Anil Sakhare for the BMC opposed the plea and submitted that the plaintiff ‘blatantly’ carried out construction without sanctioned plans and suppressed facts and documents pertaining to the property.
The BMC had twice taken demolition action. “Once in the year 2018 and then in February last year, and still illegal construction is on, which led to issuance of notice in October, last year,” BMC said.
“Such is the audacity of the appellant that he once again started alterations and reconstructed the demolished portion. Therefore, the BMC once again took action of demolition on February 14, 2020,” the BMC affidavit had said.
Sakhare argued that Sood had carried out construction for hotel rooms under the pretext of ‘beautification’ and he has approached the Court with ‘unclean hands’ and that he cannot be permitted to continue commercial activity of running a residential hotel and his plea be dismissed.
After conducting nearly three-hour long hearing, the bench reserved its order on the plea, which will be passed in due course.
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