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Pertinently, the Court observed that development projects, such as the one for which the building is being demolished "could not be stalled endlessly", especially when there is "bona fide and in public interest" involved
In a blow to the campaign against the proposed demolition of the iconic Collectorate Building/Afim Ka Bhandar in Patna City, the Patna High Court has given the Municipal Corporation the green light for proceeding with its demolition (Indian National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage v. The State of Bihar and Anr.).
The Bench of the Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S Kumar found that the structure, which the State had planned to demolish to make way for a new building, had no aesthetic, historical, or cultural significance.
As noted in the order,
Pertinently, the Court opined that development projects, such as the one for which the building is being demolished "could not be stalled endlessly", especially when there is "bona fide and in public interest" involved.
The Court noted, however, that the building could be taken down brick-by-brick, to recreate a replica of the same nearby. The State was, in any event, planning the same, the order records.
In 2019, the Bihar Government announced its intention to demolish the building to free up space for a new government complex. The decision met with wide disapproval and campaigns against the tearing-down of the structure.
The petitioner, the Indian National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage, had earlier filed two PILs challenging the decision to take down the building. In partial relief, on the second PIL, the Court had restrained the State from initiating the demolition of the structure.
The Court had also directed the Bihar Urban Arts and Heritage Committee to take a decision on whether the building needed to be preserved. The said Committee, in its report, found the historical value of the building to be insignificant.
In the present case, the Committee's constitution was challenged, along with the State's action, which was argued to be arbitrary and capricious.
The Patna High Court found the Committee to be lawfully constituted, staffed with Secretaries from the Art, Culture, Youth, Tourism, and Archaeological Departments.
The Bihar Urban Planning Act, upon which the challenge was based, required members of the commission to represent "among others", Urban Planning, Visual arts, Architecture, Indian History or Archaeology, Tourism and the Environmental Sciences.
As for the contention that the building's historical significance was not considered, the Court observed that the Archaeological Survey of India has not assailed the Government's decision to demolish the structure.
Taking note of the Committee's findings, which reported that the building was totally dilapidated, beyond repair and has no historical importance or significance, the Court dismissed the plea.
The petitioner association was represented by Advocate Sanket. Advocate-General Lalit Kishore and Additional Advocate General Prabhat Kumar Verma appeared for the State.
The building was built by the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or the Dutch East India Company in the 18th Century, as a godown for opium and saltpetre. It was later used for administrative purposes by the British.
Read the Order here: