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No funds to buy machines to raze illegal bungalows: Raigad collector tells HC

Tasked by the Bombay High Court to demolish all illegal structures constructed along the beaches at Alibaug, the Raigad Collector’s office told the court on Thursday that it does not have funds to carry out such demolition work.

Since 2009 the high court has been hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) alleging that several “wealthy persons” have constructed bungalows and private structures along the beaches in Alibaug in violation of the state’s and Coastal Zone Authority’s norms.

Appearing for the Collector’s office, lawyer P B Kakade told a bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice M S Karnik Thursday that his client had urged the court to direct the state government to extend some financial aid for the purpose.

Kakade said the Raigad district authorities and the Collector’s office had already written to the state government stating that they do not have funds to purchase or engage the services of “JCBs and other excavating and demolishing” devices.

“The collector has urged this court to direct the state to allocate funds for the purpose,” Kakde said.

At this, the bench expressed its surprise and asked, “Isn’t the district collector also part of the state government? Then how can you write a letter to yourself asking for funds?”

The court directed the state urban development and revenue departments to look into the issue.

Earlier this month, the state had filed an affidavit in the court stating that orders had been issued to demolish fugitive jeweller Nirav Modi’s illegal bungalow in Alibaug.

Nirav Modi, a key accused in the $2 billion Punjab National Bank fraud case, has fled the country.

Kakade told the court on Thursday that since the bungalow had been attached by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the state government had written a letter to the ED stating that it needed to demolish the structure in compliance with a previous HC order.

He also said that of the 58 other illegal properties that were served with the demolition notice on December 4, five had already been demolished.

The bench was hearing a petition filed by activist Surendra Dhavale seeking that the court direct the authorities to demolish all unauthorised constructions “within the low and high tide areas” at several villages in Alibaug.

The petition claimed that there are around 175 such private residences in coastal regulation zone areas in villages such as Varsoli, Sasvane, Kolgaon and Dokvade, among others, belonging to many “wealthy persons, including Nirav Modi and several businessmen and film actors”.

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