The Bombay High Court directed the Raigad collector to explain why no appropriate action was taken against unauthorised private bungalows, including one of fugitive jeweller Nirav Modi, constructed along a beach in Alibaug.
A bench of justices A S Oka and R I Chagla also directed the sub-divisional officer concerned to file an affidavit stating why he had failed to carry out demolition or other remedial measures against such bungalows, despite a previous order of the high court passed in 2000.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by Raigad resident Surendra Dhavale, seeking that the court direct authorities to demolish all unauthorised constructions “within the low and high tide areas” in a number of villages in Alibaug.
As per the petition, such constructions had been carried out in violation of the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority Rules and the state’s land laws.
There are around 175 such private residences in coastal regulation zone (CRZ) areas in villages such as Varsoli, Sasvane, Kolgaon and Dokvade, among others, all in Raigad district’s Alibaug taluka, according to the plea.
It alleged that these bungalows belong to several “wealthy” people from Mumbai, including Nirav Modi, some Hindi film actors and senior lawyers.
The land, meant for “only agricultural purposes” has been purchased by these people illegally for construction of private residences.
They carried out the construction work in contravention of the environmental and coastal zone regulations, the plea alleged.
For instance, Nirav Modi was granted permission for construction only on an area of around 390 sqms. However, his bungalow has been constructed over an area of more than 1,000 sqms, the petitioner told the high court .
“However, the local sub-divisional officer turned a blind eye to most of such violations and has been sitting on cases of unauthorised constructions under the garb of having sent them to the collector’s office with prayers from owners of such properties for regularisation,” he said.
The bench noted that the collector and the sub-divisional officer “owe an explanation” to the court for failing to implement the court’s previous orders, and also for failing to discharge their duties when it came to regulating unauthorised construction work in the CRZ areas.
“In Nirav Modi’s case, illegal construction over an area of 695 sqms has been protected by authorities. In some other cases too, the sub-divisional officer has failed to initiate action. Prima facie, large-scale illegal constructions exist in the area,” the bench said.
“The collector and the sub-divisional officer owe an explanation for their inaction,” the court said, and directed the officers to file their reply affidavits within the next four weeks.