The owner of Esplanade Mansion in South Mumbai submitted before the Bombay High Court on Thursday that he, along with the bonafide tenants, would provide Rs 50 crore for restoration and conservation of the heritage building that houses over 140 tenants.
The submission came after the court on February 11 directed the landlord to provide an estimated cost. “We, owners and bonafide tenants, are eager to get the restoration work started and will undertake it on our own,” said advocate Chirag Balsara, appearing for the owner.
“We are willing to commit a sum of Rs 50 crore towards restoration of the structure as the cost of acquisition of the structure was almost Rs 3,200 crore as per the ready reckoner rate and government authorities would not be willing to spend the amount,” he added.
A division bench of Justice S J Kathawalla and Justice R I Chagla was hearing a plea on conservation and restoration of the heritage structure. The plea opposed a proposal by the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) to pull down the building claiming it to be structurally unstable.
Abha Lamba, heritage conservation architect and member of the expert panel appointed by the high court in the Esplanade Mansion case, during the last hearing, had submitted an estimate cost of Rs 98 crore, stating that besides structural stability, the architectural stability of the building was also considered.
However, the counsels for MHADA and state government told the court that the authority did not have the fund to bear the expenses of the privately-owned Esplanade Mansion.
Balsara submitted that a scheme will be formulated for the disbursement of the amount and it would be given to the court within two weeks. The court said until the scheme is formulated, the landlord cannot start repair or refurbishment work. Balsara submitted a confidential letter to the court consisting of an undertaking on behalf of the owner and tenants and said that a separate account would be maintained to account for the amounts received and expended.
When the court made a suggestion that restoration can be done under the supervision of an expert from the court appointed three-member committee, Balsara submitted that they would not have a problem with the expert coming on board and convince the owner for the same.
Senior advocate Janak Dwarakadas, appearing for Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, informed the court that a hoarding was put up on the scaffolding of the structure. The court asked the owner to get it removed and refrain from putting up any hoarding in future while restoration work is under way.
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