In a major setback to Maharashtra Co-operation, Marketing and Textiles Minister Subhash Deshmukh, the Solapur municipal commissioner has passed an order stating that Deshmukh’s bungalow, built on a plot reserved for a fire brigade station and a garden in the city’s Development Plan, is “illegal, unlawful and unauthorised”.
Municipal Commissioner Avinash Dhakne has also revoked the building permissions earlier granted to the minister’s bungalow. In the light of the commissioner’s order of May 30, the Opposition on Saturday demanded Deshmukh’s resignation.
On March 27, The Indian Express had carried a report on the alleged illegal construction of the bungalow. A day later, the issue was raised in the state Assembly by NCP’s Jayant Patil, seeking Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ response on the matter during the Budget Session. Fadnavis, however, had given a clean chit to Deshmukh.
“Since the procedure for regularisation of Gunthewari development was not followed neither by the plot holders nor the building permission department, the structures existing on the plots today become illegal, unlawful and unauthorised (sic),” said Dhakne in his 26-page order.
Sources said that Dhakne’s report has been submitted to the Bombay High Court in a contempt petition filed by activist Annarao Bhopale in 2017. Bhopale had moved court against the Solapur Municipal Corporation for its alleged failure in complying with an HC order asking it to pass an order with regard to the illegal construction of the bungalow by Deshmukh.
The civic body, in its submission before the High Court, had said that it would take a decision by May 31, 2018. The next hearing of the case is scheduled on June 13.
Dhakne has revoked the building permissions granted to the 10 plot holders, including Deshmukh. The issue should be dealt with under the relevant provisions of the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act (MRTP)-1966 and Maharashtra Municipal Corporations Act-1949 by the building permission department of the corporation, said the order.
While Dhakne refused to comment, sources said that a demolition notice is likely to be issued to Deshmukh.
Mahesh Chavan, who had filed a petition in High Court in 2014 on the same issue, said that the bungalow should be demolished immediately. “Criminal cases should be filed against all of them and the losses incurred to the civic body should be recovered from them. The plot should be developed as per reservation,” said Chavan, an activist from Solapur.
However, Deshmukh maintained that the bungalow was constructed only after permissions were granted by the civic body. “The report has been submitted in the court and we will abide by the court’s decision. If I am asked to demolish it, then I will demolish it,” Deshmukh told The Sunday Express.
Deshmukh, in his submission before the municipal commissioner in March, had contended that since the building permission has been granted by civic body under the Maharashtra Gunthewari Developments (Regularization, Upgradation and Control ) Act-2001, the plots are deemed to be de-reserved.
The state government introduced the Act to deal with unauthorised sub-division of private lands and their transfer to “needy persons” for construction of residential units. Since these sub-divisions are usually in multiples of a guntha (one-fortieth of an acre), such developments are referred to as Gunthewari developments.
However, Dhakne has rejected the claim stating that “none of the plot holders have applied for regularisation of Gunthewari developments after coming into force of this Act (sic)”.
“As per section 3(1) of the said Gunthewari Act, it is mandatory to make an application to the planning authority for regularisation of Gunthewari development. Hence, in the absence of such an application, permission cannot be granted under the said Act,” he said in the order.
Dhakne also remarked that the plots on existing land under acquisition for public purpose are not eligible for regularisation but this condition was overlooked, despite remarks by the town planning department, and termed the permissions granted in April 2004 as “null and void”.
Further, he blamed the officials for “acting contradictory” in the case. “It is seen that the procedure adopted for the approval of building permission is neither as per Gunthewari Act nor MRTP Act. The officers acted in a manner which is self-contradictory on most of the times,” said Dhakne, noting that “officers have failed to protect the interest of the corporation” by not following norms.
The case dates back to September 2000 when Deshmukh and nine others jointly purchased a two-acre plot in Majarewadi, along the Hotagi Road in Solapur, for Rs 50 lakh. The land was already under reservation at the time of purchase under the Solapur Development Plan-1978, and the revised development plan of 1997.
In November 2000, Deshmukh and the nine co-owners wrote to the building permissions department of the municipality seeking a nod for construction. The civic body replied in January 2001, denying permission, saying the land was reserved for a fire brigade station and a mini shopping centre.
Under the MRTP Act, privately owned land in municipal jurisdiction may be acquired by the municipality for development of amenities based on reservations imposed by the Development Plan.
To a query by Deshmukh in March 2004, the municipality reiterated that his request cannot be considered owing to the reservation. In April 2004, Deshmukh gave a sworn affidavit to the municipal corporation, saying he has proposed to the state government that the reservation be cancelled, seeking permission for construction and promising to abide by the government’s final decision in the matter.
Subsequently, permission was granted for construction of a “living room, toilet and bathroom”. The scrutiny report said permission was given on the condition that the government’s decision on the reservation would be binding on the owner.
In July 2012, the civic body granted construction permissions again, this time for a ground-plus-one floor structure, including a kitchen, dining space, family room, bedroom, store, servant room, waiting lodge and a toilet on the ground floor, and a bedroom, guest bedroom, hall, gymnasium and toilet on the first floor. Again, the permission was given, subject to the state government’s decision on cancelling the reservation.
Opposition parties are now gunning for Deshmukh’s resignation. “It is a very serious matter and the bungalow should be demolished now. Besides, Deshmukh must resign as minister immediately,” said NCP’s Dhananjay Munde, also the Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council. Munde added that the issue would be taken up in the coming Assembly session.
Sachin Sawant, state general secretary of Congress, also demanded Deshmukh’s resignation. “It is sad that no action is being taken against the minister. The CM is trying to protect his colleagues repeatedly by giving clean chits,” he said, adding that the MCOCA should be invoked against Deshmukh for illegal construction.