HC refuses to stop demolition of 107-year-old LIC building

Observing that demolition of the century-old dilapidated building owned by insurance giant LIC in south Mumbai was inevitable, the Bombay High Court today refused to quash an order passed by Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai for razing the structure.

A division bench of justices A S Oka and Revati Mohite-Dere was hearing a petition filed by the tenants of the building challenging the municipal commissioner's May 5 order.

The court, however, also said that the tenants' rights must be protected.

The commissioner had passed the order after the High Court directed him to hold a meeting and decide whether demolition was necessary or the building could be repaired.

Earlier, the LIC too had moved the court seeking demolition and challenging the recommendation of Heritage Conservation Committee that being a heritage structure, the building should be preserved.

"The building needs to be pulled down as it is beyond repair. This has been stated in the civic body's technical advisory committee. The commissioner's view will have to be accepted," the High Court today said.

On the rights of the tenants, it said, "If after demolition any application is filed for (re)development, then the civic body shall give advance notice to the tenants."

The judges noted that while earlier the LIC had indicated that if there was a redevelopment, tenants would be accommodated in the new building, today it changed its stand and said the tenants won't have the right to be accommodated in the new building.

The court was earlier informed that the team which will carry out the demolition has been asked to preserve heritage portions and restore them.

The building of LIC, formerly General Assurance Company, is a three-storey brick-and-stone structure constructed in 1908. It housed offices of companies like Bisleri, the National Insurance Corporation, Western India Typewriter Co and the Hornby Commercial College.

Few years ago, following heavy rains, a portion of the ceiling collapsed and all the tenants were evacuated.

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