Writ petition by INTACH

The Chennai Metro Rail on Friday submitted before the Madras High Court that it would not touch that portion of the P. Orr & Sons on Anna Salai which has been declared as a heritage structure. Recording the submission by the company's counsel, a Division Bench comprising Justices Elipe Dharma Rao and M. Venugopal posted a writ petition filed by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) for further arguments on March 19.

The INTACH prayed the court to restrain the authorities from demolishing, modifying or altering any part of the heritage structure.

The petitioner submitted that the building was designed by Robert Chisholm, consulting architect to the then Madras Government, who also designed the Madras University Senate House, Victoria Public Hall and the Central Railway Station. The structure was constructed in 1873. The authorities failed to see that the building was a Grade I heritage structure and that its value should not be permitted to be diminished in any manner. The Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority and the Chennai Corporation erred in permitting a part of the building to be demolished for Metrorail without considering the building's heritage value.

It has now come to light that acquisition process of a part of the land on which the building stands has been initiated. The proposal to demolish a part of the heritage structure listed in the Justice E. Padmanabhan committee report as Grade I, was completely a violation of the statutory norms in Development Control Rules.

The rules laid down special rules for conservation of heritage buildings which said that no development or redevelopment or engineering operations for additions/alterations/repairs/renovation, including the painting of the buildings, replacement of special features or demolition of the whole or part of the buildings or plastering of the buildings or precincts should be carried out except with the prior written permission from the CMDA.

The petitioner submitted that a comprehensive list of heritage buildings had not been identified and notified as directed by the Madras High Court in its April 29, 2010 order. Preservation of heritage structures was one of the mandates of the Constitution, the petitioner said.

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