Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC) action of demolishing a part of actor Kangana Ranaut's bungalow in Mumbai was illegal and smacked of malafide intentions, said Bombay High Court on Friday. Observing that the demolition was carried out on "wrongful grounds" and "against the rights of the citizens", a bench of Justices SJ Kathawalla and RI Chagla said that it was was "bad in law". The court was presiding over a petition filed by Kangana, seeking that the partial demolition of her Pali Hill bungalow, which was her office, on September 9 be declared illegal. Kangana Ranaut had filed the petition on September 9 when the demolition process was initiated by BMC. In an interim order on September 9, the court stayed the demolition work.
On Friday, 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 Kangana Ranaut for the damages caused. The bench, however, clarified that it did not condone any illegal construction carried out by any citizen, and neither did it approve of Kangana'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 cannot be indulged in by the state," the bench said.
It also directed Kangana Ranaut to show "restraint" in future while voicing her opinions in public. In her petition, Kangana 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 Kangana 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 (Kangana 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 Kangana permission to make the bungalow habitable in accordance with the sanctioned plan and with prior approvals of the civic body.
Kangana Ranaut had sought Rs 2 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 Kangana. 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 Kangana, 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 Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut a party to the case and disapproved his tweets and his interview to a TV news channel threatening to teach Kangana Ranaut a lesson for her tweets comparing Mumbai to PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) in a tweet. At the time, the court had asked Sanjay Raut if it befitted a parliamentarian to use ungraceful language against a citizen.
Watch: A portion of Kangana Ranaut's office being demolished by BMC