Bombay High Court to MHADA and heritage committee: Decide ‘soon’ on repair of Esplanade mansion

Mumbai: Taking a note of the ‘condition’ of the century-old Esplanade building in Fort area, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday asked the authorities including the BMC and the heritage committee to decide if the ‘dilapidated’ structure can be repaired. A division bench of Justices Ranjit More and Anuja Prabhudesai said, “We are aware of the recent incident when a portion of the building collapsed on a cab. All we want is no loss of life as we do not want a disaster in the future in case the entire building collapses.”

The building, which is amongst the top few structures in the list of most dangerous buildings in Mumbai, has been in a dilapidated condition for year altogether. It houses several shops along with more than 200 offices of lawyers. The bench was hearing a plea filed by tenants led by advocate Ashok Sarogi, challenging the eviction notices issued to them by the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) in 2015.

The tenants succeeded in securing a stay order against the eviction notice after undertaking to ‘continue occupying the building at their own risk.’ On Wednesday, when the matter was called for hearing, Sarogi informed the bench of that none of the tenants is opposing repair of the building. He, however, said that before repairing the structure, a prior consent from the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) was required.

The MHADA, however, countered that legally, it is the duty of the landlords, for carrying out the repair work, at their cost. The landlord, on the other hand, claimed that if repair works are carried out as per the suggestions of MHCC, would not be affordable for them as the committee has insisted to use the material such as cast iron and other things, which were used in the original construction work in the 1860s. Having heard the contentions, the bench directed Sarogi to implead MHCC as a party to his plea as it is only the committee, which could inform the court of what could be done to ensure the safety of the building and its occupants.

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