The Mumbai suburban collector’s office has cracked the whip on occupants of 53 plush bungalows in Versova, including comedian Kapil Sharma, for damaging mangroves and adding illegal extensions to their houses. Based on a report submitted by the mangrove cell in the Collectorate, Collector (Mumbai Suburbs) Deependra Singh Kushwah has directed the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) to act against the occupants for violating the Environment Protection Act, 1986, destroying mangroves, and dumping construction debris close to mangroves, thereby violating a 2005 Bombay High Court ruling.
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While the illegal extensions will be demolished, the lessees of properties near Janki Devi School could face criminal charges too, according to sources.“We are checking if the encroachments are under our jurisdiction or the mangrove cell’s. Thereafter, we will ask the Brihanmumbai Municipal Commission (BMC) to demolish the extensions,” said an official from Mhada.
Mhada, which owns the property, will also check for violations in the lease agreements under which the occupants are using the property. “Mhada will have to verify on what conditions the land was leased to these people and take necessary action,” said Kushwah, adding that the BMC would also look for violations in construction permits.
The area came under the scanner after a tweet by Sharma, who has an office in Versova, in September 2016. Sharma had posted a tweet tagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi and claiming that BMC officers had asked him for a bribe of Rs 5 lakh for an extension to his office.
The BMC responded by claiming that Sharma had violated norms and encroached on mangroves with illegal extensions to his Versova office. The civic body also filed an FIR against the actor for making illegal alterations to his flat in Oshiwara.
Later, a report submitted by the mangrove cell said that Sharma had violated the High Court ruling by dumping construction debris less than 50 m from the mangroves after 2005. A second FIR was filed against the actor in Versova police station. It was in this report that the Mangrove Cell flagged that 66 of the 74 other bungalows surveyed on the stretch too had violated norms.