The Delhi High Court has said no portion of the building which houses the “iconic” Karol Bagh branch of the Delhi Public Library (DPL) would be removed or demolished without its permission. The court gave the direction while allowing the DPL to initiate steps for appointing an agency to remove the rubble generated by demolition of a portion of the building earlier.
A vacation bench of Justices Sanjeev Sachdeva and A K Chawla said that the DPL has to first ascertain which floors of the central Delhi building, housing the 55-year-old library, need to be demolished and submit a report to the court.
“The removal of any structure would be with the permission of the court,” the bench said and added, “It used to be an iconic library at one point of time.”
It said that its interim order restraining the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) from demolishing the building would continue.
The order came during the hearing an application filed by the building’s owner, seeking directions to the library to appoint an independent agency to clear the rubble.
The owner, Dimple Enterprises, has claimed that the rubble is adding to the structural instability of the building and also contended that two of its floors are in a bad state and need to be removed.
The application was filed in the PIL moved by some scholars and journalists, who have challenged the NDMC’s two notices to the DPL to vacate the premises claiming the building was structurally unfit and dangerous and therefore, needs to be demolished.
The court had earlier stopped the NDMC from taking any further step, saying the library “shall be kept closed and nobody shall be permitted to enter the premises till further order”.
It had also asked the Centre to consider the reports given by the IIT, Delhi and the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) after inspecting premises and to take a decision with regard to the building’s structural stability.
Seeking quashing of the NDMC notices, the petitioners had alleged that the owner of the premises “wants a commercial complex to come up in place of this library in order to make money from the land”.
“The NDMC has been manipulated by using corrupt practices to declare the premises as dangerous now, while in 2011, the same civic body had certified the building as safe, provided minor maintenance (was carried out,” the main petition has said.
It has alleged that “pressure and corrupt tactics by the owners” was behind the demolition move. The petitioners had also claimed there was no likelihood of an immediate danger to passers-by or others while entering the premises.
Funded by the Ministry of Culture, the DPL board is an autonomous body which has around 45 branches and mobile libraries across Delhi. It comprises officers from both the central and the Delhi governments, intellectuals, members of the Legislative Assembly and councillors.
The first Delhi Public Library was started by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru across the old Delhi railway station in 1951.