Decks have been cleared for the construction of a ceremonial hall at Rashtrapati Bhavan to host visiting dignitaries and invitees during functions like ‘At Home’.

The project that was mooted during the tenure of former President Pratibha Patil had been put on hold after the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC) demanded that the approval for the construction should be preceded by a heritage conservation plan. The HCC is an apex body constituted by the Union Urban Development Ministry to monitor heritage structures and ensure their protection.

“The proposal has finally been approved, all the relevant endorsements and sanctions from local authorities as well as the heritage committee have been sought, and INTACH has already drafted the heritage conservation plan, which, too, has been accepted. There are no more conditions to fulfil and the process of inviting bids has been initiated,” said a senior official of the Central Works Public Department of the Union Urban Development Ministry.

The ceremonial hall, big enough to accommodate 1,200 guests and expected to cost Rs. 23.59 crore, was proposed after rain played spoilsport during an ‘At Home’ function in 2011. While President Patil herself was seated in the Ashoka Hall, which is higher in the pecking order of the halls, the guests had to be seated on the basis of protocol.

“After that incident the President’s office had communicated [to CPWD] the need for a large ceremonial hall, which would be suitable to host dignitaries and could be used for functions during inclement weather,” said the official.

The President’s office had pointed out that existing halls, including the Ashoka and the Durbar Hall, could not be used for accommodating all the guests who turn up for ceremonial functions. The proposal for the construction of the ceremonial hall was then sent to the Prime Minister’s Office, as is the procedure followed for any large-scale construction in Rashtrapati Bhavan precincts.

The single-storey ceremonial hall will come up next to the Auditorium that was inaugurated during the tenure of former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

More In: NEW DELHI | NATIONAL