Restraint on demolition of heritage building

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The Bharat Insurance building at Anna Salai in Chennai.
The Bharat Insurance building at Anna Salai in Chennai.

Staff Reporter

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has directed the State government to take up enumeration of heritage buildings in Tamil Nadu that have been listed in the report filed by the Justice E.Padmanabhan Committee.

Allowing a writ petition filed by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), a Bench comprising Justices Prabha Sridevan and P.P.S.Janarthana Raja said that immediate direction must be passed to protect all such buildings/places in the State, wherever they may be and cited as an example the 150-year-old Kuthirai Vandi Court in Coimbatore that has become home to anti-social elements .

The Bench restrained Life Insurance Corporation of India from demolishing the Bharath Insurance building without complying with regulation 22 of the Development Control Rules for the Chennai Metropolitan Area, 2004.

Directive to HCC

It has directed the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC) to assess the value and feasibility of retaining the Bharath Insurance building. “As far as possible the building must be saved.

The Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority and the Chennai Corporation, with the consultation of the HCC, shall issue directions for the protection of the building,” the judges said.

The Bharath Insurance building, situated on Anna Salai, is an example of Indo-Saracenic architecture.

Work on the construction of the building began in 1894 and it was inaugurated in 1897 as Kardyl Building, headquarters of ‘W.E.Smith & Co Ltd.'

In 1934, it was sold to Bharath Insurance by Spencer's. Later, when life insurance was nationalised, the building and the company were taken over by the LIC.

In 1998, the LIC initiated a process of eviction of tenants in the building on the grounds that it was unsafe for occupation due to its dilapidated condition.

The HCC has been asked to recommend to the government steps to notify buildings listed by it as heritage buildings and within three months, cause notices to be issued to the concerned, especially the private owners, in respect of buildings listed by the Justice E.Padmanabhan committee so that there is no threat of demolition of destruction or alteration to such buildings.

The Bench has asked the State government to issue rules to prevent persons from undertaking any repair, even in the name of renovation of heritage buildings without seeking the necessary approval of the HCC.

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