Noting that pedestrian safety was of paramount importance, the Bombay High Court, on June 21, 2019, directed the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) to take necessary steps, to secure the area around the dilapidated Esplanade Mansion. All the occupants of the 150-year-old heritage structure in south Mumbai were evicted, after the building was declared as dangerous.
On the directions of the high court, the MHADA put up barricades around the building, prohibiting pedestrians from using the footpath around the structure. A division bench of justices SC Dharmadhikari and Gautam Patel, however, noted that the upper portions and balconies of the building were yet to be covered and there were chances that some part of the upper portions may collapse. “The upper portions and balconies should also be covered. Pedestrian safety is of paramount importance. We do not want any untoward incident,” the court said.
The bench directed senior officials of the MHADA, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the joint commissioner of Mumbai Police concerned, to convene a meeting on what safety measures need to be undertaken around the building. The court directed that a report to be submitted to it within two weeks on the issue. The bench was hearing an application filed by the MHADA, seeking permission to implement the recommendations made by IIT Bombay, to demolish the building.
The bench was informed by BMC counsel Anil Sakhare that a few experts had opined to the civic body’s heritage committee that the building need not be demolished, but can be repaired and restored. Sakhare said the heritage committee is yet to take a final decision. The court said at this stage it was not accepting or rejecting the contention of either, the MHADA or the BMC. “Presently, we are only concerned with the safety measures,” it said.
Esplanade Mansion: HC asks MHADA to list precautions for demolition
The Bombay HC has sought to know what precautions the authorities will take, during the demolition of the dilapidated Esplanade Mansion, an iconic heritage structure in south Mumbai
June 6, 2019: The Bombay High Court, on June 4, 2019, asked the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA), to list out the precautions it proposes to take, while bringing down the Esplanade Mansion, a 150-year-old heritage structure in south Mumbai. On directions of the HC, the MHADA had issued eviction notices to all occupants of the building, as it was in a dilapidated condition.
A division bench of justices SC Dharmadhikari and GS Patel, on June 4, 2019 was informed by MHADA lawyer PG Lad that 104 occupants had already vacated the building. However, 64 offices in the building had locks on them and their owners/tenants had not responded to eviction notices. “Since the last date for eviction has passed, MHADA will now remove locks and seize all movable articles inside the said premises and make an inventory and later hand it over to rightful owners,” Lad said. He added, the MHADA would then initiate further action towards demolition of the building.
The bench then sought to know what precautions the authorities proposed to take during demolition, to ensure that no untoward incident occurred. “The building is at a busy intersection at Kala Ghoda in south Mumbai, with continuous vehicular movement. Tell us what precautions you (MHADA) will take considering the impending monsoon season in the city,” the bench said. “Barricades need to be put up around the building and no person should be allowed to walk in the promenade surrounding it and no cars should be allowed to be parked there. We do not want the building or any part of it to fall on anyone,” the judges said.
Advocate Atul Damle, appearing for some of the occupants of the building, told the court that MHADA should give them transit occupation, elsewhere in the vicinity. The bench, however, said the rightful owners can file civil suits in lower courts, to resort these disputes. “Individual plaints have no relevance when the building is in a dangerous and dilapidated condition,” justice Patel said. The bench posted the matter for further hearing on June 21, 2019, by when MHADA will have to file an affidavit stating what steps it has taken.
BMC serves notice to commercial establishments in Mumbai’s iconic Esplanade Mansion
The BMC has served notices to commercial establishments in Esplanade Mansion, an iconic heritage structure that is now dilapidated, to stop operating from the premises until a structural audit is undertaken
March 28, 2019: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has asked commercial establishments running from the dilapidated Esplanade Mansion in south Mumbai, to down the shutters for the time being. It is a historical building, recognised by UNESCO as a heritage structure but now considered hazardous. The building, formerly known as Watson Hotel, was built with cast iron fabricated in England and holds the distinction of hosting the first-ever film screening in India in 1896.
The civic body has so far served notices to nine commercial establishments, asking them to stop operating from the premises, until the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay submits a structural stability report. Though the building is rickety, its occupants – many of them lawyers who have offices there – have given an undertaking to the Bombay High Court that they would like to stay put and will be solely responsible for the consequences. “However, we are fearful for customers who visit the building and who are not aware (of the danger it poses). To avoid any untoward incident, as a preventive measure, we have asked commercial owners or operators to keep their businesses closed for some time,” a senior civic official said.
The popular Army Restaurant, which runs from the ground floor of the five-storey building, has been closed, following the BMC notice. Another occupant, ‘Smart and Hollywood Ladies & Gents Tailor’, said to be the city’s oldest tailoring establishment, too has been asked to close. Mumtaz Ahmed, who has been working at the shop for over five decades, said the shop will soon down its shutters. “We have stitched clothes for Miss Indias back in the 1950s and 1960s and also for Alyque Padamsee’s (theatrical) productions,” Ahmed said.
Assistant municipal commissioner Kiran Dighavkar said the BMC’s notices conform to the guidelines laid down by the Bombay High Court while hearing the matter, when some of the occupants moved the court against eviction notices. “The decision (to issue present notices) respects the high court ruling’s framework,” he said.
The Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA), responsible for the upkeep of old buildings, placed the building in the list of ‘most dangerous’ in 2010 and asked its occupants to vacate it. However, the occupants moved the court, arguing that the building was ‘repairable’ and MHADA should repair it. “The building is extremely rickety and we served them notices twice. Now the matter is sub-judice,” said a MHADA official.