Clear stand on heritage tag by Jan 15, High Court tells govt

Mumbai

Granting the Maharashtra government last opportunity, the Bombay High Court Monday gave it time till January 15 to state its stand in petitions challenging the grade-I heritage status proposed for the Shivaji Park precinct.

Two petitions were filed challenging the July 31, 2012, heritage committee decision to include the precinct in the proposed heritage list, and the August 13, 2012 circular of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) directing its officers to seek a No-Objection Certificate from the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) before sanctioning redevelopment, repair, modification or proposal for buildings in Shivaji Park.

The MHCC, in an affidavit submitted to the Bombay High Court, stated that the residents of Shivaji Park challenging the proposed heritage tag for the precinct had made "false and scurrilous allegations against the committee and some of its individual members".

The residents, citing information obtained under the Right to Information Act, had alleged that public money had been utilised as per the decisions and desires of the consultants appointed by the MHCC.

In a surrejoinder dated December 17, the MHCC stated that the Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI) is a non-profit organisation that had charged a small fee to complete the task of reviewing the 1995 heritage list. The fees received by the UDRI for this task were "deployed by the UDRI for the furtherance of its charitable objects".

The affidavit by MHCC chairman V Ranganathan stated, "Mr Cyrus Guzder and Mr Pankaj Joshi did not get any share or percentage or commission from such fees", and added that they had no personal or financial interest in the assignment executed by the UDRI.

Ranganathan added that Abha Lambah was not part of the MHCC when she was appointed by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Heritage Conservation Society for two assignments in 1998, and when she was asked to review the existing heritage list of 1995.

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