Expressing an inclination to acquire Dr Homi J Bhabha’s iconic Malabar Hill bungalow and turn it into a museum, the Centre told the Bombay High Court Monday that it has sought the state government’s intervention to declare Bhabha’s bungalow ‘Meherangir’, auctioned by National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) for Rs 372 crore last week, as a “protected monument”.
The move, according to the Central government, will “inspire the youth of India and tribute to Dr Bhabha, courtesy whom, the country got the recognition of ‘nuclear power’ around the world.”
The Centre’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) also told Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sonak that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had, on June 18, 2014, written to the Ministry of Legal Affairs showing its willingness to preserve the bungalow.
On June 15, Bharat Ratna and C N R Rao, a science advisor to several PMs and who met Modi earlier this month, had told The Indian Express: “The house is legendary, steeped in the scientific history of India. It has to be saved at any cost. It should be declared a national heritage property .”
Located on a 1,000 sq m plot, the four-floor ancestral house was named ‘Meherangir’ by Bhabha to honour the memory of his mother Meherbai and father Jehangir. It was given by Bhabha’s brother, artist Jamshed J Bhabha, to the NCPA in his will.
DAE undersecretary K P S Pillai, in an intervention application that was filed on Monday through senior counsel Rashmi Desai and advocate Ravindra Lokhande, told the court that the department had taken up the matter with the state government.
“The DAE, government of India, had in this regard approached the government of Maharashtra with a request to initiate appropriate steps to declare Meherangir as a heritage building so as to prevent it from possible demolition, etc. The matter is also being taken up by DAE with the government of India for declaration of the bungalow as a historical monument and acquisition of the same under the Maharashtra Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1960,” Pillai told the HC.
While stating there was a need to “retain the memory” of the late nuclear scientist, Pillai said it could only be done by preserving Meherangir in the form of museum-cum-exhibition center.