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Basement business mocks HC order for 3 years

What does a responsible citizen do when he sees the law of the land being taken for granted?

He moves court, spends big money on lawyers and waits for justice.

What does he achieve?

Nothing.

A septuagenarian resident of Ranchi had filed a petition against blatant violation of the National Building Code and illegal use of basement at his apartment block in the heart of the capital in 2011, prompting city-wide crackdowns on other rogue structures and a CBI probe into his case.

However, three years down the line, a store of stationery items and an advocate’s chamber continues to flourish in the basement of Chandralok Apartment on Kutchery Road while retired Usha Martin employee Harnarayan Lakhotia (75) has been left poorer by more than Rs 1 lakh.

Lakhotia owns a flat on the second floor of the apartment block, which has a Ranchi Regional Development Authority (RRDA) sanctioned plan of G+3 but has grown a floor taller allowing realtor Aroma Constructions to pocket profits of selling two extra flats.

With the stationery store and lawyer’s office occupying much of basement room, residents of Chandralok Apartment barely have any place left to park their vehicles despite having paid for it. Their access to the setback area is also restricted for the same reason.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Lakhotia said it was unfortunate how illegalities sunk into oblivion in the state. “It seems the authorities have forgotten the law that govern apartments after Chief Justice Bhagwati Prasad left the city,” said the senior citizen who was the whistleblower of Ranchi’s basement scam.

In March 2011, Lakhotia had filed a petition in Jharkhand High Court exposing how a nexus of unscrupulous builders and government officials was promoting illegal constructions on Kutchery Road and across the capital.

Chief Justice Prasad converted the plea into a PIL and directed the CBI to investigate. As the pressure mounted, the state government began a crackdown on apartments violating the building code. Illegal constructions in the basement of the RRDA office too were demolished during the drive.

“The campaign fizzled out soon after change of guard in the high court. We residents of Chandralok Apartment are still waiting for action,” Lakhotia pointed out.

Chief executive officer of Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) Manoj Kumar, who is currently the authority to take decisions against illegal constructions within city limits, parried questions.

“The matter is three years old and I am new (six months into office). I have no idea what happened in the past. As far as I know, the CBI has taken over RRDA files related to construction dispute. If the petitioner brings the matter to my notice afresh, I will think over it,” he said.

Lakhotia said he possibly couldn’t do so because the matter was sub judice. “The high court had asked the Ranchi district administration to make it aware of the development in my case. The CBI is also probing the matter. I do not think it is proper to knock on the door of any government authority at present.”

CBI inspector A.B. Vardhan confirmed that the agency was awarded the task of probing the apartment case. “We have already submitted charge sheet in court,” he said, adding that they had no role beyond this.


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