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Muddle over missing building
- Civic authorities caught in conflicting HC orders on structure of contention

The building is buried in rubble, but it remains a real bother for the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC).

A three-storey structure on Chowbhaga Road, near the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, allegedly constructed in violation of civic rules and razed to the ground in the last week of August, was the subject of 16 different writ petitions and interim rulings from several Calcutta High Court benches over the past six years.

Two contrasting court orders from two judges — one threatening contempt-of-court proceedings if the building was not demolished by August 29 and another threatening similar action if the building was demolished — have put the CMC brass in a spot over the structure that no longer exists.

Justice Barin Kumar Ghosh, on August 7, responding to a petition (no.1149) filed by Bimal Kumar Ghosh, had asked the municipal commissioner, the local councillor and other civic officials to be present on August 29, to know the action the high court would take against them if the building was not demolished by then.

On D-Day eve, Justice Altamas Kabir heard out another writ petition (no. 820) filed by Sheikh Kamaruddin Ahmed and stayed the demolition. He directed the CMC to ensure that there was no “further demolition of the writ petitioner’s structure till this matter is sorted out”.

The CMC, however, had already demolished the building of contention, to escape a rap from Justice Ghosh. So, by the time Justice Kabir debarred demolition, the building was no more.

Municipal commissioner Debashis Som admitted that he was at a loss over the ‘ghost’ building. Som, who has been in more than a spot of bother before (case in point, being “roughed up” by several members of the mayor’s council earlier this year in the corridors of civic power), said this was the “most confusing situation” he had ever faced.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee added: “We completed the demolition to avoid contempt proceedings the court had threatened to initiate. Now, if the other bench passes an order terming the demolition illegal, who will bear the cost of restoring the building'”

CMC deputy chief law officer Shaktibrata Ghosh said Ahmed, who had filed the petition in Justice Ghosh’s court, and some others, were responsible for the construction of the building. The other petitioner, Bimal Kumar Ghosh, was the one whose complaint had prompted the CMC to serve a demolition notice on Ahmed in 1997. Since then, the building has been the subject of several legal twists. When Ahmed filed another plea for stay of the demolition order, the court gave the first of its interim orders on April 16, 1997, setting off the chain of events culminating in all-round confusion six years later.

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