The Maharashtra government might declare the iconic Malabar Hill residential bungalow of Dr Homi J Bhabha a ‘protected monument’, responding to the demand for its preservation as a heritage site.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has asked his official to examine the option of listing the bungalow as a ‘protected monument’ under the Maharashtra Ancient Monuments and Archeological Sites and Remains Act, 1960.
Ratan Kumar Sinha, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, had earlier approached Chavan with the request to exercise the option. Even as the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) auctioned the bungalow earlier this month, several eminent persons from the scientific and nuclear fraternity have opposed the move and feel that the house should be converted into a museum.
Sinha’s communication has now been forwarded to the Cultural Affairs Department, sources said. A senior state official further informed that once it is declared as a ‘protected monument’, the chief minister-led Urban Development Department can then initiate proceedings to identify it as a ‘heritage site.’
Homi Bhabha, the architect of India’s nuclear power programme, was a part owner of the property. After his demise, the property was devolved solely upon his brother Jamshed, who bequeathed it absolutely to the NCPA in his will, which has since been probated.
The bungalow was auctioned for Rs 372 crore earlier this month. Supporting the demand to convert the bungalow into a museum, Chavan had earlier issued a formal request to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this regard.
In response to a petition filed opposing the auction in the Bombay High Court, the Centre had said on June 23 that the “office of the Prime Minister is exploring possibilities of adopting appropriate proceedings to acquire Homi Bhabha’s property to retain his memory.”
The affidavit, filed by the under secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), had further said that “making the bungalow a museum-cum-exhibition centre would inspire the youth of India and would be a great tribute to Homi Bhabha.” A division bench headed by Chief Justice Mohit Shah posted the matter for further hearing on June 30.