In a U-turn, the Centre informed the Bombay High court today that under the Central laws it would not be possible for it to convert the bungalow of nuclear scientist Homi J Bhabha here into a museum and hence Maharashtra government has been asked to consider it.
The Mehrangir bungalow was once resided by Homi Bhabha, the father of Indian nuclear programme. Pic/Suresh KK
Two months ago, the Centre had told the court that it was considering to take over the bungalow for turning it into a museum in public interest. State's counsel Geeta Shastri told a bench headed by Chief Justice Mohit Shah today that a proposal to convert the bungalow at posh Malabar Hill into a heritage monument was under active consideration of Maharashtra government and a decision would be taken soon.
The judges asked the state to inform after two weeks its decision on the issue. The sea-facing bungalow 'Mehrangir' was recently sold to a businessman for over Rs 300 crore at an auction by the National Centre for Performing Arts, its custodian. The court was hearing a PIL filed by Bhabha Atomic Research Centre employees represented by Atomic Energy Workers and Staff Union of BARC president Prashant Worlikar and President of National Forum for Aided Institutions Employees (Department of Atomic Energy) Raam Vitthal Dhuri.
The petitioners had prayed for a direction to stay the bungalow's auction and convert it into a museum. The court, however, had not stayed the auction but said it will hear the government's point of view on the issue during the hearing of the PIL. The judges felt that the government can acquire the bungalow any time, if it so wanted. The PIL said, "The late Homi Jehangir Bhabha was a renowned person throughout the world and an asset to our country. He spent all his lifetime in the bungalow and also ran his office from here."
"Bhabha is the father of Atomic Research Centre in India. In such circumstances, the bungalow owned and possessed by the late Homi Jehangir Bhabha can very well fall under the four corners of being a heritage structure and is required to be preserved," the petition said.