HC to MHADA: Submit safety plans in 2 weeks

Updated: Jun 22, 2019, 07:59 IST | Pallavi Smart

Housing body to rope in BMC, traffic cops for the safety of pedestrians and motorists around heritage building, which is now barricaded

HC to MHADA: Submit safety plans in 2 weeks
Esplanade Mansion, formerly known as Watson's Hotel, at Fort, has been vacated and barricaded. File pic

The Bombay High Court on Friday gave two weeks time to the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) to take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of pedestrians passing by Esplanade Mansion. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and traffic police will be roped in for this, as the tasks will include re-routing of human as well as vehicular traffic and re-construction of footpaths which MHADA alone cannot handle.

Directives for the same were given by Justice S C Dharmadhikari and Justice G S Patel, after the advocate for MHADA submitted a report on the closure and barricading of the building, after it was vacated. While a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) to save the 150-year-old heritage structure, the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) is also scrutinising the possibility of restoring the building.

Also read: Mumbai: Esplanade holds key to heritage tag for whole precinct

Compliance report from MHADA
Prakash Lad, the advocate for MHADA, said, "We submitted the report about complete evacuation of the building along with closing and barricading of the structure, with photographs to the court. But it stated that only closing the building was not enough, and we need to take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of pedestrians passing by. We argued about the requirement of help from BMC and the traffic police in order to do this, as the works would involve their expertise. So the court gave directives that MHADA, BMC and the Joint Commissioner of Police, Traffic, should come together to take appropriate steps to protect the lives of pedestrians. A compliance report on the same has to be submitted within two weeks."

MHADA has sought permission from the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee to pull down balconies which are dangerous. File pic
MHADA has sought permission from the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee to pull down balconies which are dangerous. File pic

The HC on June 4, had issued directives to put up barricades around the structure in such a manner that nobody could go near or inside the building. Following this, MHADA has written to BMC's A ward office for permission to cordon the area, and requested them to make necessary arrangements for pedestrians, by constructing new footpaths on M G Road and Fuller Road. "There are balconies from the first to fourth floor, which are also in a dangerous condition, and so we have asked for permission from the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee to pull them down," said Lad, adding that both letters were submitted to the court on Friday.

Also read: Mumbai: INTACH joins fight to save Esplanade

Lad was further questioned to elaborate MHADA's stand, on which he said, "We have accepted the report submitted by experts from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay recommending demolition of the building. We have made an application before the court to permit demolishing it and the earlier direction of repair work needs to be recalled."

Rajan Jayakar, convenor of INTACH, told mid-day, "The PIL has been filed. But we have made an application to the Chief Justice on the administrative side to the registrar of the court, to transfer the matter to the bench of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and G S Patel, as companion matters on the same subjects are pending there." PILs are heard by the Chief Justice, however, in this case, INTACH has sought permission for their PIL to be heard by the existing bench in the HC, which is already hearing the matter of Esplanade Mansion.

Jayakar further added, "The court on Friday directed MHADA to take steps to ensure the safety of human and vehicle traffic passing near the structure, while the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee is scrutinising the possibilities of restoration of the building. The court directives are to ensure that people are not affected or injured if anything falls during monsoon."

150 years
The age of Esplanade Mansion

Also read: Save Esplanade mansion: IIT-Bombay's report to be challenged in HC today

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