Kangana bungalow demolition was illegal, smacks of malice: Bombay HC

Kangana Ranaut. File Photo: PTI

The Bombay High Court on Friday declared the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC) action of demolishing part of Kangana Ranaut's bungalow here as illegal and said it smacks of malafide intentions.

A bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and R I Chagla said the demolition action was "bad in law", and observed that it was carried out on "wrongful grounds" and "against the rights of the citizens".

Stating that it does not approve of authorities using "muscle power" against any citizen, the high court also said that the case was fit for awarding compensation to Ranaut for the damages caused.

The court was presiding over a petition filed by Ranaut, seeking that the partial demolition of her Pali Hill bungalow carried out by the BMC on September 9 be declared illegal.

The bench, however, clarified that it did not condone any illegal construction carried out by any citizen, and neither did it approve of Ranaut's tweets that led to the whole incident.

"This court does not approve of illegal works or of loose statements made against the government or against the film industry," it said in its order.

"We are of the view that the petitioner, being a public-spirited person, should exercise some restraint while tweeting," the court said.

It, however, added that the comments made against the state or its machinery by a citizen in his or her individual capacity, must be ignored by the state.

"And if any action is taken at all, it must be within the four walls of the legal system. Any sort of muscle power can not be indulged in by the state," the bench said.

It also directed Ranaut to show "restraint" in future while voicing her opinions in public.

In her petition, Ranaut had claimed that the BMC had acted out of malice following her tweets against the Mumbai police that had irked the Shiv Sena-led Maharashtra government.

The BMC had denied the allegations and said that the actor had carried out illegal work at the bungalow and its officials had therefore, acted in accordance with the law in carrying out the demolition work.

The bench, however, said that the photographs of the site, BMC's attempts at denying Ranaut's allegation, the comments made by Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut, the editorial in party mouthpiece 'Saamana' following the demolition, all made it clear that the civic body had acted out of malice.

It said that the demolished portions had been in existence for a while and were not part of any ongoing illegal construction as claimed by the BMC.

"The demolition action smacked of malafide and was carried out to cause substantial losses to the petitioner (Ranaut)," the bench said.

"Even if one assumes that the malice does not amount to personal bias, it does amount to legal malice," the bench said.

"The manner in which the action was carried out leaves no doubt that using section 354 was unauthorised, bad in law and aimed at preventing the petitioner from taking recourse to preventive legal action," the bench said.

It granted Ranaut permission to make the bungalow habitable in accordance with the sanctioned plan and with prior approvals of the civic body.

Ranaut had sought Rs two crore in damages from the BMC.

On the issue of compensation, the bench said it was appointing private firm m/s Shetgiri as the valuer to assess the damages caused in order to calculate the compensation amount due to Ranaut.

The valuer would hear the petitioner and the BMC on monetary damages caused to her due to the demolition.

"The valuer shall by March 2021 pass appropriate orders on compensation," the court said.

The charges of such valuation will be borne by Ranaut, the court said.

On October 5, the court had reserved its verdict on the plea after days of extensive arguments from all sides.

It had also made Sanjay Raut a party to the case and disapproved his tweets and his interview to a TV news channel threatening to teach Ranaut a lesson for her tweets comparing Mumbai to PoK in a tweet.

At the time, the court had asked Raut if it befitted a parliamentarian to use ungraceful language against a citizen.

Ranaut had filed the petition on September 9 when the demolition process was initiated by BMC. The court had in an interim order on September 9 stayed the demolition work.

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