The beneficiary, as per the will of Homi Bhabha’s brother Jamshed Bhabha, is National Centre for Performing Arts, a charitable trust, which conducted the auction.
“Mehrangir” — the bungalow of the late Dr. Homi Bhabha, the father of India’s atomic energy programme — was on Wednesday sold for an unprecedented Rs.372 crore — effectively Rs.2,80,000 per square foot.
The property is located in south Mumbai’s Malabar Hill, one of the most premium localities in Mumbai.
The minimum reserve price for the publicly-auctioned 17,150-square-foot property was Rs.257 crore. The National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA), a cultural institution, is the sole beneficiary. The winning bidder’s identity was not disclosed.
“It is a fantastic transaction and exceeded our expectations. We had expected around Rs.325-340 crore,” said Ujwala Rao of Jones Lang Lasalle India, the advisors to the transaction, speaking to The Hindu.
The bungalow had been home to Dr. Homi Bhabha till his demise in 1966. His brother, Dr. Jamshed J. Bhabha, a senior Tata Group director and founder-chairman of the NCPA, was custodian of the estate till his demise in 2007. He had bequeathed his estate, which included Mehrangir, to the NCPA.
“While seven bidders had registered for the auction, only three parties turned up,” NCPA chairman Khushroo Suntook said.
The auction went through in the face of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) employees having petitioned the government and filed a lawsuit against the sale seeking that the residence be converted into a museum in Dr. Bhabha’s memory.
While the High Court had not granted a stay, the matter is to be heard on Monday, June 23. “It is a probated will whose terms were court-approved. The Judge directed us to go ahead with the auction and the petitioners are challenging the Right to Property,” Mr. Suntook said, adding that Mehrangir was not a heritage property.
“On the BARC’s request, every possession of Dr. Bhabha including personal letters was given to them.”
Mr. Suntook was unsure what the buyer would do with the property. “Hopefully, it is for end-use. I would be upset if the structure is demolished.”
Mr. Suntook welcomed the proceeds from the sale, claiming the NCPA was in need of funds.