The Bombay High Court Friday directed the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) not to carry out any excavation or tunneling in the area around the 119-year-old J N Petit Institute, Fort, for the next two weeks. The MMRCL is working on the 33.5-km underground Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro Rail line.
The court appointed a three-member committee of structural engineers to carry out a survey of the area and submit a report before the end of the two-week period. The committee will comprise one member from the Indian Institute of Technology – Bombay and two other structural engineers recommended by the J N Petit Institute and the MMRCL.
A bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice N M Jamdar was hearing a petition filed by the trustees of the J N Petit Institute, a heritage building on Dadabhai Naoroji Road. The petition had sought a stay on the ongoing work for the proposed Hutatma Chowk Metro station on the grounds that it was damaging the old buildings, including several protected heritage structures, in the area.
The division bench directed the MMRCL to refrain from carrying out “excavation work” near the JN Petit library and garden. The bench also directed that the committee study the effects of such tunneling work on the buildings, and to “suggest ways to continue with the work without damaging the buildings” in the area. “The committee will submit its suggestions, and a report on the effects of the excavation work on the buildings within two weeks,” the bench said.
According to the petitioners, on August 25, a heavy limestone finial adorning a portion of the JN Petit building’s ceiling fell down due to the constant vibrations from the ongoing excavation work for the metro. During the hearing on Thursday, the Chief Justice said that the court couldn’t stop the Metro work altogether as it was for public welfare. She, however, agreed to the petitioners’ request for a survey of all buildings in the area by an independent panel.
The petitioners told the court that while they were not opposed to the metro, the ongoing work must be halted at least till the time a comprehensive survey of all buildings in the Fort area has been conducted. The MMRCL, meanwhile, said that the vibrations were within permissible limits. But the trustees said the measurements were recorded when drilling was not underway outside the building.
The Neo-Gothic building was established and came to be known as the J N Petit Fort Reading Room and Library in 1898, when Nesserwanjee Manockji Petit named the library after his son, Jamsetjee Nesserwanjee Petit. The reading room was added in 1939. The building has over 150,000 books, including a rare copy of Firdausi’s 11th century epic Shahnama.