A delegation led by Maharashtra BJP president Chandrakant Patil met Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari at Raj Bhavan on Saturday demanding stern action against the entire council of ministers in the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government for waiving a Rs 4.30-crore fine imposed on Shiv Sena’s Thane MLA Pratap Sarnaik and thereby “violating their oath of office”.
The state cabinet last week decided to waive the penalty imposed on Sarnaik for illegal construction at a residential project in Thane.
The BJP delegates presented the details of the case to the governor and submitted a memorandum demanding that criminal offences should be registered against the entire cabinet.
Speaking to the media outside Raj Bhavan after the meeting Patil said: “During the swearing-in, the ministers take the oath they will not indulge in any act of favouritism or wrongdoing. Shockingly, the entire MVA cabinet took the unanimous decision to waive the Rs 4.30 crore penalty slapped against Sarnaik for illegal floor construction in a project at Thane. What is more appalling is that. The finance department had recommended the imposition of a double penalty to set an example for others not to violate rules. But the cabinet overruled the finance department’s objections to favour the Sena MLA. Since the governor administers the oath to ministers, we have taken up the matter with him,” he said.
“On Monday we will take up the same matter with the Lokayukta and Upalokayukta office. We will also file public interest litigation in court against the cabinet.”
Years ago, two 13-storeyed buildings under the Chhabhaiya Vihang Garden project developed by Sarnaik’s companies in Thane landed in trouble for illegal construction and violation of rules.
In 2008, the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) permitted construction up to the ninth floor. Sarnaik, who had built a school for the TMC free of cost, in the bargain, got additional TDR (transfer of development rights) and extended construction to 13 floors. But he had not taken the mandatory permission from the corporation.
Following objections, Sarnaik applied for regularisation of the illegal floors. In 2013, he received clearance with a penalty of Rs 3.3 crore. It was to be paid within six months failing which it would invite an interest of 18 per cent. Though Sarnaik paid Rs 25 lakh to the corporation, the total sum of penalties and interest added up to approximately Rs 4.30 crore.
In the present MVA government, the urban development portfolio is with the Shiv Sena and it mooted the proposal to waive the entire amount of Rs 4.30 crore in the cabinet. The decision was unanimously approved without any discussion.
“A cabinet cannot take decisions for an individual. If it has decided to regularise all illegal construction and give a penalty waiver it should extend for the entire state. There should be a uniform policy,” Patil said.