Indore Municipal Corporation officials demolish a building owned by absconding businessman-editor Jeetu Soni. (PTI)
The Indore administration on Thursday demolished a bungalow of Jeetu Soni, editor and owner of the newspaper Sanjha Lokswami and accused in the alleged ‘honey trap case’, and partly demolished three other properties he owns in different localities, including a plush hotel.
The move came immediately on expiry of the 48-hour deadline given to Soni to explain why the properties should not be demolished for violating building permissions.
‘Jag Villa’, built on a plot of more than 24,000 sq feet, had parts built in violation of the building permission razed, officials said.
Demolition squads began the crackdown early on Thursday simultaneously at the bungalow on Kanadia Road, Best Western Plus O2 hotel in South Tukoganj, My Home at Geeta Bhavan Square, and O2 Café in Palasia area of the city.
Soni’s newspaper had published reports on BJP leader and former state minister Laxmikant Sharma, a principal secretary to former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and Harbhajan Singh, a superintendent engineer with Indore Municipal Corporation, and husbands of two of five women named in the honey trap case as accused.
He had promised to make more such revelations.
On Saturday night, the district administration carried out searches at all four premises, as well as the eveninger’s office in Press Complex.
Soni was first booked for violating Information Technology Act on a complaint from Harbhajan Singh. He, his family members and associates were subsequently booked for human trafficking, extortion, blackmailing, loot and forgery, among other offences. While Soni is at large, his son Amit was arrested on Sunday, and the manager of My Home arrested two days later.
Late on Wednesday, guests at Best Western were asked to vacate the hotel; My Home was already vacant. Within a few hours, the Indore administration, accompanied by heavy police force, demolished fully or in parts all his properties.
The operation to demolish illegal portions of Best Western Plus O2 was stopped later on Thursday after the High Court granted stay and gave seven days to the hotel management to reply to the showcause notice.
Advocate Vishal Baheti told The Indian Express that the management had challenged the December 2 notice in High Court because only 48 hours were given for the management to reply. The hotel was built in 2009-10 following building rules, the counsel said.
Indore Collector Lokesh Jatav said the demolition was not artificially fast-tracked. “Everyone was given a reasonable time and due course of action was followed. In the past, the municipal corporation had given just 24 hours (to those accused of illegal constructions),” he said.
Jatav said the administration will abide by the court’s direction in the case of Best Western.
Another advocate, Manohar Dalal, said, “In response to the notice asking why the house should not be demolished within 48 hours, we replied that it was a compoundable offence and we are ready to pay the amount for extra construction.”
He said the house had already been demolished by the time the court granted a stay.