The Bombay high court on Wednesday stayed the demolition of alleged illegal alterations at actor Kangana Ranaut's bungalow in Mumbai, saying the civic body's conduct was 'mala fide' and 'deplorable'.
A division bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and R I Chagla asked why the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) gave only 24 hours to Ranaut to respond to its stop-work notice and went on to take action when she was outside Maharashtra.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Ranaut challenging a notice issued by the BMC for 'illegal' construction at her bungalow in Pali Hill area.
She also sought a stay to the demolition which began in the morning.
Asking the BMC to stop demolition, the court said that as per the stop-work notice issued on Tuesday, the alterations had not come up overnight.
"However, all of a sudden the corporation appears to have overnight woken up from its slumber, issued notice to the petitioner, that too when she is out of state, directing her to respond within 24 hours, and not granting her any further time, despite written request, and proceeding to demolish the premises upon completion of 24 hours," the court said.
"The manner in which the BMC proceeded to commence demolition work prima facie does not appear to be bona fide (in good faith) and smacks of mala fide (dishonest intentions)," it said.
The court was giving the corporation an opportunity to explain its stand/conduct through an affidavit, the judges said, and posted the petition for further hearing on Thursday.
"We cannot help but mention here that if the BMC would act with similar swiftness qua (with regard to) the numerous unauthorised constructions in this City, the City would be a completely different place to live in," the court remarked in the order.
It also sought to know from the BMC how its team entered the premises in the absence of the owner or her legal representative.
The sketch/drawing in the BMC's stop-work notice (issued on Tuesday) was 'extremely unclear and the unauthorised works cannot be seen at all', the judges said.
The civic body was trying to 'waste the time of the court and in the meantime complete the demolition', the HC said.
"We find the conduct of the BMC highly deplorable, more so since the BMC was well aware that a petition would be filed by the petitioner before this court at any time, and an application seeking urgent orders will be moved," the court said.
The civic body had on Tuesday filed a caveat before a lower court seeking to be heard if Ranaut moved the court, the HC noted.
After the BMC on Wednesday undertook demolition of 'illegal alterations' at Ranaut's bungalow at Pali Hill in suburban Bandra, the actor approached the high court through her lawyer Rizwan Siddiqui.
Her petition argued that she was not given sufficient time to respond to the notice, and claimed she had taken all necessary approvals before carrying out the construction.
Ranaut has crossed swords with the Shiv Sena, which rules in Maharashtra as well as controls the BMC, with her remark comparing Mumbai to Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir.
The 33-year-old actor, who returned to Mumbai on Wednesday from her home state Himachal Pradesh, alleged that the Maharashtra government was targeting her because of her clash with the Shiv Sena.