CHENNAI: An RTI activist’s building was sealed by Chennai Corporation officials without any prior notice, after the documents that he obtained exposed the authorities’ lethargy in taking action against five illegal multi-storeyed buildings in Sowcarpet.
J Parasmal, who owns the single-floor commercial building, alleged that the action was taken by Corporation officials on July 26, just a few days after they were issued a charge memo. The memo was issued by then Executive Engineer Sundaresan on July 17 to the officials for failing to initiate action against the five multi-storeyed buildings, based on a complaint from Parasmal.
As per norms, the Corporation has powers to approve building with only two floors. But these buildings located on Thatha Muthiappan Street, Audiappa Naicken Street, Narayana Mudalali Street, Mint Street and Varadha Muthiappan Street are six-storeyed structures, cibstructed without permission from the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority.
After the RTI documents confirmed the violation, the building on Thatha Muthiappan Street was sealed.
The charge memo was issued against Assistant Executive Engineer Sundarrajan and Area Engineer Lawrence for failing to act on the buildings. Parasmal said that despite the charge memo, action had not been taken against the other four illegal structures.
Parasmal was in for a shock when his single-storey building was sealed by the authorities without any notice. When he sought an explanation, (as stated in the flex board on his building), the officials ignored him. “Regional Deputy Commissioner Zone V Lakshmy refused to meet me thrice when I demanded the notice,” he said. Parasmal’s building had a minor deviation as he had built a mezzanine floor. A notice was issued on 2008 and subsequently another one on February 11, 2012. Following the second notice, Parasmal sent in his reply on July 16, 2013, that his building was inspected by then Executive Engineer K Muniappan on February 21, 2012. In the letter, the official had stated there was no construction activity then. However, Chennai Corporation officials did not reply to his letter for the last one year. But all of a sudden, on July 26, without issuing notice to him or a de-occupation notice to his tenant Arvind of Arvind Impex, the building was sealed. “It is high-handedness on the part of Chennai Corporation officials, who have been a mute spectator to illegal buildings mushrooming in Sowcarpet,” he said.
When he sought the notice through RTI, Chennai Corporation officials affixed a note by Regional Deputy Commissioner (North), which vaguely highlighted a complaint from one Jayantilal, and also a petition by activist litigant Traffic Ramasamy against buildings in Sowcarpet. The answer to the RTI query did not state that a notice was issued to Parasmal. When CE contacted Chennai Corporation official Lawrence, he said the civic body had given the notice, but Parasmal refused to receive it.
But Parasmal maintained that this was not true. “Why would I file RTIs and wait at the Regional Deputy Commissioner’s office seeking the notice which they evaded,” he asked.