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Esplanade Mansion ‘sad story’ an eye-opener; authorities should protect heritage buildings: Bombay HC

The structure lost its “splendour” over the years and was listed among “100 most endangered sites” in 2006, the court said. Only a positive approach of the authorities can help in maintaining such buildings in the city forever, it added.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
Updated: July 18, 2021 6:22:46 pm
Esplanade Mansion in Mumbai (Photo: Wikimedia/AroundTheGlobe)

Expressing concern over the “sad story” of the dilapidated Esplanade Mansion, a heritage building in south Mumbai, the Bombay High Court recently said it should serve as an “eye-opener” for the authorities and an impetus to devise a mechanism to protect and restore heritage structures.

The structure lost its “splendour” over the years and was listed among “100 most endangered sites” in 2006, the court said. Only a positive approach of the authorities can help in maintaining such buildings in the city forever, it added.

Also read | Heritage panel to consider Esplanade Mansion owner’s restoration proposal soon: BMC to Bombay HC

“We have good laws to protect ancient monuments but the implementation of such laws to protect them as also to protect the heritage buildings is certainly not adequate and in fact dismal… If the authorities were to devise an effective mechanism by conforming to the norms of law, the state of affairs would not have been as to what is the fate of the Esplanade Mansion today,” the court said.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni on July 3 made the observations while disposing of pleas by Sadiq Ali Noorani, the owner of Esplanade Mansion, which has featured in World Monuments Watch’s list of 100 most-endangered buildings. The mansion was earlier known as the Watson’s Hotel.

The court, in the order made available Saturday, said the heritage structure “ought to be repaired and restored”, and suspended demolition notices issued by the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) till the proposals/applications of the petitioners were decided by the respective authorities. It also asked the MHADA and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to complete all formalities of redevelopment or restoration of the structure.

Senior counsel Anil Sakhare, appearing for BMC, had told HC that its heritage committee will consider and “positively” decide the proposal for the restoration of the heritage building by the owners, following which the HC asked the latter to submit its proposal within six weeks.

Advocate Chirag Balsara, appearing for the owner, had submitted they had already arranged Rs 20 crore out of Rs 50 crore required for the construction.

The court said, “In our opinion, the issue as raised in the present proceedings is an eye-opener and an impetus for the authorities to devise an effective mechanism to protect and restore heritage structures. Some positive approaches and a will in this regard would go a long way to maintain such heritage buildings…”

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