Rapped by the Delhi High Court for stalling and delaying the development and expansion of the court complex,the National Monument Authority (NMA) on Tuesday submitted in the court the approval of the heritage bylaws pertaining to Sher Shah Suri Gate and Khair-ul-Manazil. The HC complex falls within the regulated area (101-300 metres from a protected monument) of the heritage structures.
The bylaws will be a first for any monument in India. The bench,headed by Justice Pradeep Nandarajog,had earlier this month ordered all NMA members to be personally present in court with an explanation,if they failed to notify the bylaws by Tuesday.
The bylaws have proposed a maximum height of 21 metres for new constructions so that they do not affect the view of the monuments or the angle of vision.
While the bylaws will not apply to the courts main building or its two existing blocks which are more than 30 metres in height,the upcoming Block C would have to abide by the fresh rule and will be restricted to four-stores.
Additional Solicitor General A S Chandhiok,who appeared for the High Court Bar Association,contended that the court had recorded that the recently acquired 2.74 acre of land abutting the court complex and the area where Block C is being constructed did not fall within the regulated area of the monuments and,hence,did not require any cap on its height. The court had put this on record after the official concerned from the ASI had agreed to the position.
Block C has been planned as a multi-storey building with 44 court rooms,including eight rooms for the joint registrars. The court complex currently has 36 court rooms,out of which two are makeshift rooms.
During the hearing,the ASG told the bench that with the bylaws in place and in the wake of a recent Supreme Court verdict prohibiting construction of multi-storey buildings within 100 metres of protected monuments,they had no objection in going ahead with the construction of the building. He said the Bar would still try to have 44 court rooms in the proposed four-storey structure.
Chandhiok,however,objected to a regulation in the bylaws that stipulated maximum permissible coverage on ground as 25 per cent of the area of the site and maximum permissible Floor Area Ratio (FAR) as 125 per cent of the site area. He referred to the Delhi Master Plan 2021,which allowed 30 per cent of the site area to be earmarked as integrated office complex and FAR as 200 per cent.
Justice Nandarajog then directed the NMA to consider the anomalous position and resolve it.
In November 2011,the bench had directed the Central government to notify the NMA within 30 days under the Ancient Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act,2010. The order was passed since only the NMA could sanction plans pertaining to regulated areas. A delay in notification held up the infrastructure and expansion plan of the court.
Subsequently,a competent authority under the Act apprised the bench in January that the draft heritage bylaws pertaining to Sher Shah Suri Gate had been submitted to the NMA and it now required their sanction.
The bench then posted the matter to February first week,asking the NMA to take a decision on the proposla by then. However,the court was informed that bylaws were yet to be finalised,compelling the court to pass the order: If within two weeks,the heritage bylaws pertaining to Sher Shah Suri Gate are not notified,all members of the NMA shall be personally present in the Court at 10.30 am on February 21.
Also,it was a nudge by the bench that more than nine Central and state government authorities had put their heads together that led to a clearance for the construction of an underground multi-level automated parking lot near the High Court. The fully automated six-level underground parking with a capacity to accommodate 1,500 cars on Sher Shah Suri Marg had been mired in controversy since its began in 2008 with conservationists expressing fears that it threatened a tomb in the vicinity. Thanks to the bench,the parking facility is currently having its trial run and is expected to be operational soon.