In a shocking revelation, Sitaram Gupta, a former corporator of the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) party in the Vasai-Virar region, has been arrested by the Economic Offences Wing of the Mira-Bhayander-Vasai-Virar police for his alleged involvement in constructing a staggering 41 illegal buildings on land spanning 60 acres in the Achole area of Vasai East, over two decades ago. Gupta’s arrest has sent shockwaves through the community, shedding light on a complex web of deceit and corruption.
The Arrest and Charges
The arrest of Sitaram Gupta, a once-prominent figure in Vasai’s political landscape, has brought to the forefront a tale of land grabbing and illegal construction that has festered for years. On a fateful Wednesday, the long arm of the law finally caught up with Gupta, leading to his detention. As the investigation unfolds, Gupta finds himself behind bars with police custody granted until September 27.
The allegations against Gupta are grave. Authorities claim that he played a key role in preparing fraudulent completion certificates for one of the buildings, falsely issuing them in the names of CIDCO (City and Industrial Development Corporation) and the Vasai-Virar City Municipal Corporation (VVCMC). These shocking revelations have led to the filing of a First Information Report (FIR) in June, invoking several sections of the Indian Penal Code, including 420 (cheating), 465 (forgery), 467 (forgery of valuable security), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (using as genuine a forged document), 474 (possession of forged documents), and 34 (common intention).
Gupta’s associate, Vijay Tambat, also known as Vijay Salvi, finds himself implicated in the case alongside Gupta. The legal process is now firmly in motion as authorities seek to bring the full extent of their alleged wrongdoing to light.
The Elaborate Land Grab Scheme
According to the police, the illicit operation masterminded by Gupta involved his brother Arun Gupta and a network of collaborators. Together, they managed to lay claim to 30 acres of land that rightfully belonged to private owners. Shockingly, they also acquired an additional 30 acres designated for water purification plants and dumping grounds. Once in possession of this land, they embarked on a scheme to sell it to various builders, all underpinned by fake ownership documents.
The complainant in this convoluted case, Ajay Sharma, has been grappling with this issue since 2008. Acting as the caretaker of the 30 acres owned by individuals residing in New Zealand and Canada, Sharma discovered the Guptas’ unscrupulous activities. The Guptas fabricated documents for the land and subsequently sold it to builders.
Sharma’s pursuit of justice began in earnest when he visited the property in 2008 and found Prime Property Developers constructing buildings there. A confrontation ensued, leading to Gupta and his associates assaulting him. Seeking redress, Sharma turned to the Nalasopara police, who registered a case against the wrongdoers. The wheels of justice, however, moved slowly.
In a shocking revelation, Sharma obtained a Right to Information (RTI) response from the municipal corporation in 2020, confirming the illegality of the construction on the land. Astonishingly, the VVCMC had permitted the construction of the buildings and granted planning permission without adequately verifying the authenticity of the documents presented by the accused.
The consequences of this elaborate land grab scheme are dire. Over 200 families currently reside in the illegally constructed buildings, facing an uncertain future as the legal proceedings unfold. The VVCMC has issued notices to evacuate these buildings, but occupants continue to live in fear of losing their homes.
Bombay High Court’s Observations
The extent of the deceit and corruption surrounding this case did not escape the notice of the Bombay High Court. In July of this year, the court categorically stated that Gupta was the mastermind behind this alarming scam while rejecting his anticipatory bail plea. This observation underscores the gravity of the situation and the urgent need for a thorough investigation.
The Chhota Rajan Connection
As if this case could not get any more intriguing, Sharma revealed that Gupta and his associates used the name of underworld gangster Chhota Rajan to acquire the land. The police are currently conducting an investigation to ascertain any potential connections between the accused and the incarcerated gangster.
A Broader Pattern of Deceit
The shocking revelations surrounding Gupta’s arrest shed light on a broader pattern of deceit and corruption in the region. Just last month, the Virar police uncovered a similar scam where individuals had constructed a staggering 55 residential buildings within the jurisdiction of the VVCMC. The modus operandi in this case was eerily familiar—forged and fabricated documents were used extensively. The accused were even found in possession of counterfeit stamps and letterheads from various agencies, including CIDCO, MahaRERA, revenue officials, and civic officials.
The ramifications of this second case are equally significant. These builders managed to sell flats to unsuspecting buyers, and as a result, approximately 3,500 families are currently residing in these buildings. The scale of this deception is immense, with authorities identifying around 80 files related to buildings constructed using forged and fabricated documents.
Arrests in the Broader Scam
In connection with the larger scam, authorities have made several arrests. Among those apprehended are Dilip Benvanshi, the proprietor of Rudransh Developers, and his associate Prashant Patil, both of whom played pivotal roles in the illicit construction operations. Collaborators Machindra Vanmane, Dilip Adhkale, and Rajesh Naik have also been taken into custody.
The arrest of Sitaram Gupta and the unfolding revelations surrounding the construction of 41 illegal buildings in Achole, Vasai East, serve as a stark reminder of the need for robust legal oversight and the vigilance of citizens like Ajay Sharma. As the investigation continues, it remains to be seen how deep the roots of this corruption reach and how many more individuals were entangled in this intricate web of deceit. In the face of adversity, the affected families residing in these illegal structures await justice, hoping for a resolution to their harrowing ordeal.