"Does Human Life Mean Nothing": Court Slams Mumbai Housing Body Over Esplanade Mansion

A division bench of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and Gautam Patel had last month directed MHADA to take steps to secure the area around the building.

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'Does Human Life Mean Nothing': Court Slams Mumbai Housing Body Over Esplanade Mansion

The five-floor Esplanade Mansion was enrolled in the list of '100 World Endangered Monuments'.


Mumbai: 

"Does human life mean nothing", the Bombay High Court on Friday asked after it was informed that the Maharashtra Housing Area Development Authority (MHADA) was yet to entirely secure the 150-year-old dilapidated Esplanade Mansion in south Mumbai.

A division bench of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and Gautam Patel had last month directed MHADA to take steps to secure the area around the building.

The court was on Friday informed by MHADA lawyer Prakash Lad that barricades have been put around the building and a separate way had been made for pedestrians to walk and for vehicular movement.

The bench then sought to know if any portion hanging from the top of the building collapsed whether it would collapse on the road or inside the barricades put up.

When Mr Lad said the debris would fall on the road, the bench asked MHADA to put up netting covering the entire building.

"We want netting around the entire building. Does human life mean nothing to you (MHADA)? All this should have been done by now. The hanging portions are not going to give prior notice to MHADA before collapsing," the court said.

The court suggested MHADA take assistance from those contractors who undertake work of netting of mountains and hills during the monsoon season on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway to prevent landslides.

"We are not satisfied with the safety measures undertaken. We want measures that cover the building from top to bottom. Our primary concern is that in this rainy season there should be no untoward incident," the court said.

The bench directed a senior officer from the traffic police department to visit the area and make necessary suggestions to MHADA.

The occupants of the 150-year-old heritage structure in south Mumbai were evicted after the building was declared dangerous.

The five-floor Esplanade Mansion, formerly known as Watson's Hotel, was built with cast iron fabricated in England and was enrolled in the list of '100 World Endangered Monuments'.

As per earlier directions from HC, the India Institute of Technology Bombay had conducted a structural audit of the building and had recommended its demolition.

MHADA, in May this year, filed an application seeking a go-ahead from the HC to implement IIT's recommendation.

However, the BMC's Heritage Committee and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) were of the opinion that the building need not be demolished and can be repaired and restored.

The bench on Friday said it would decide on this issue at a later stage, and that presently ensuring the area around the building is secured was of importance.

The court also said that heritage experts and conservationists who are now coming forward and saying the building should be repaired and restored should have done so when the condition of the building had started deteriorating.



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