A week after the Bombay High Court questioned the authorities' inaction over an 'illegally' constructed bungalow in Alibaug, belonging to fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi, Maharashtra environment minister Ramdas Kadam has ordered the demolition of that house.
The minister, according to a report in the DNA, informed that there are 162 illegal bungalows in Murud and Alibaug and that Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud co-accused Mehul Choksi too owns one.
However, it appears that the Maharashtra government cannot proceed with a demolition-drive immediately - the matter will have to be heard by National Green Tribunal (NGT), the report added.
On 14 August, the Bombay High Court said that it would direct the state government to initiate an inquiry into the issue. The court also questioned how the collector of Raigad district, where Alibaug is situated, had decided to exempt Modi's bungalow from demolition.
It was hearing a petition filed by activist Surendra Dhavale seeking the court to direct authorities to demolish all unauthorised construction "within the low and high tide areas" in a bunch of villages in Alibaug.
As per the petition, such construction had been carried out in violation of the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority rules and the land laws of the state.
There are around 175 such private residences in CRZ areas in villages such as Varsoli, Sasvane, Kolgaon and Dokvade, among others, in Alibaug taluka, belonging to several "wealthy persons including Nirav Modi, and several businessmen and film actors", the PIL claimed.
In compliance with a previous order of the bench, Raigad collector Vijay Suryavanshi filed an affidavit last week.
In the affidavit, he said that 12 bungalows have been demolished, land records of several others were still being ascertained, and that it was found that Modi's bungalow is not in violation of any norms.
As per the affidavit, Modi's bungalow was constructed prior to 1986 -- before the coastal zone norms were ratified for the Raigad area, and therefore, it couldn't be held in any violation.
The collector's office also submitted that since the said bungalow had now been attached by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), it could not take any action.
The bench, however, took strong exception to the above submissions.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Aug 21, 2018 16:58:03 IST