In Mumbai, errant builders may escape as 7,314 files go missing from BMC

MUMBAI: In what is seen as the BMC’s big cover-up, as many as 7,314 building files remain untraceable from the civic body’s building proposals department till date.

Sources suspect that the files were deliberately destroyed by department officials, local politicians and builders to suppress large-scale FSI violations as well as unauthorized constructions. Many of these buildings are luxury towers in the western suburbs of Bandra, Khar and Santacruz. While the BMC claimed to have regenerated some of these 10,000-plus missing files across the city, the task remains arduous. Several errant builders are likely to escape action.

Civic chief Ajoy Mehta had set up a panel under a deputy municipal commissioner to conduct a physical examination of some of the buildings whose files remain untraceable to unearth instances of gross violations, if any. Residents of some of these buildings could suffer because of the builders’ illegal activities, as they have still not secured the mandatory occupation certificate from the BMC. Officials admitted that 7,314 files remain untraceable and they have no option but to turn a blind eye to violations in these buildings.

A senior official stated that things happened three years ago and they were doing whatever was possible to identify violations in such buildings although it was a difficult task.

“We will check how much one can construct on a particular site. If we find that the builders have constructed far beyond the construction limits on a plot, we will deem these as illegal. We will select a few buildings randomly for examination. If the probe reveals major violations, we will have no option but to check all the buildings whose files are still missing individually,” said a senior civic officer.

However, civic officials are still unclear about what kind of action the civic authority can take against these builders in the absence of their files in the civic authority’s records. Builders can challenge the civic authority’s action with the help of forged documents. TOI had reported on the missing building files in 2013 after activists filed complaints against several such buildings in the western suburbs that had constructed illegal floors.

After three years, the issue of missing building files recently cropped up again when the economic offences wing (EOW) of Mumbai police arrested builder Jitendra Jain of Kamlashri Builder and Kamla Landmarc Constructions after over 30 flat buyers moved the Bombay high court. The case pertains to an incomplete 17-storey Shimmer building in Santacruz (West), The builder allegedly produced fabricated a commencement certificate (CC) of the building. The BMC told the court that the building’s file was missing from its records.

In the high court, the BMC admitted that all the sanctions files of Shimmer were missing from the building proposal department. It also admitted about other missing files.

Officials said in some cases architects who had submitted such building plans were either dead or did not have copies of the plans, otherwise the BMC would have collected these to re-create the missing files. Architects submit building proposals to the department on behalf of builders and they usually keep copies of the plans with them for reference.

An insider said that most buildings whose files remain untraceable have violated several rules and constructed more floors than what was permitted in connivance with the building proposals department.

As a face-saving exercise, the BMC had filed a written complaint with the Bandra police requesting them to inquire about the missing files in 2013. The police had asked the BMC to first conduct an internal inquiry to fix responsibility of its staff handling the missing files, based on which the police would register an FIR. But the BMC failed to do so and the police did not register an FIR in 2013.

Activist said the BMC’s claims of recreating missing files are misleading as it is difficult for anyone to examine their claim and the matter comes to light out only when an individual case reaches the court.

Credits ET Realty

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