Bombay High Court yet to decide fate of Esplanade Mansion
After listening to the arguments during the hearing on Thursday, the bench decided that it would issue a set of points for further arguments by all the agencies involved in the next hearing on August 21.
Even as the state government has expressed interest in conserving the 150-year-old Esplanade Mansion, the matter is yet to be decided in the Bombay High Court. After listening to the arguments during the hearing on Thursday, the bench decided that it would issue a set of points for further arguments by all the agencies involved in the next hearing on August 21.
Prakash Lad, the advocate representing Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) said amid the discussions about whether to restore the heritage structure or not, one cannot forget about the rights of the landlord or the tenants. "The building is owned by private individuals. The constitutional rights of the owner and the tenants also have to be considered," he added.
Lad further pointed out that apart from IIT Bombay's report on the structural stability of the building, which recommends that the Mansion should be demolished, there is no document on record, which states that the building can be restored. "The heritage committee has asked the court to constitute a committee to review whether restoration is possible or not. Even if it is possible, the cost has to be figured out and more importantly, who will bear it," he said.
During the hearing, Janak Dwarkadas, the advocate representing INTACH, submitted the Urban Development Department's letter that was sent to MHADA on June 26 asking them to have heritage experts conduct a study of the structure and restore it as per heritage standards. Rajan Jayakar, convenor of INTACH pointed out that based on the recommendations of the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee, a review committee would eventually be set up to ascertain the manner in which the structure could be restored.
"The court has asked INTACH to find out what the UNESCO will do in case the Esplanade Mansion is demolished pertaining to the status of it being a World Heritage Site. We will have to do a research and find out what will happen if one constituent of the ensemble goes away," he said. The High Court justices, S C Dharmadhikari and G S Patel observed that an understanding was required between the agencies involved namely MHADA, BMC, INTACH and the landlord. The bench will issue guidelines on August 21 after which the agencies involved will continue with their arguments. Based on the earlier High Court order, MHADA officials have covered the entire building with netting and have barricaded a portion of the roads around it.
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