The purchasers of Dr Homi Bhabha’s iconic bungalow “Mehrangir” on Monday informed the Bombay High Court that it could be demolished if it is unable to withstand the weight of a possible additional floor for residential purposes. However, they added it would not be done soon.
Appearing for the purchasers, senior lawyer Aspi Chinoy told Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sonak that if there are “structural compulsions”, then “Mehrangir” would have to be demolished. “If we put another floor and if it (bungalow) takes the load, it is alright, otherwise, we will have to demolish it.”
Chinoy, however, submitted that the Centre and state could take their time in deciding whether or not to declare the bungalow as a protected monument.
The Central government’s lawyers, Mohammed Ali Chunawala and Ravindra Lokhande, also submitted an affidavit before Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sonak, stating that the Centre can declare a structure as a historical one only when it has been in existence for not less than 100 years.
As a result, now the onus of declaring “Mehrangir”, auctioned by National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) for Rs 372 crore, as a protected monument lies on the state government. “The (Centre’s) Department of Atomic Energy is seeking the intervention of the state government, which is empowered to declare the property a protected monument under the provisions of the Maharashtra Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1960, as the structure ‘Mehrangir’ qualifies all the prescribed criteria for this purpose,” reads the Centre’s affidavit.
Located on a 1,000-sqm plot, the four-storey ancestral house was named “Meherangir” by Bhabha to honour the memory of his mother Meherbai and father Jehangir. It was given by Bhabha’s brother, artist Jamshed J Bhabha, to the NCPA in his will.
The judges have asked the state to file an affidavit clarifying their stand by September 10. The Centre had on the last occasion expressed an inclination to acquire the Malabar Hill bungalow and turn it into a museum. The move, according to the Central government, will “inspire the youth of India and will be a tribute to Dr Bhabha, courtesy whom the country got the recognition of ‘nuclear power’ around the world.”