Deepa H Ramakrishnan

CHENNAI: One of Anna Salai's heritage landmarks, the Bharath Insurance Building near the LIC, got a new lease of life thanks to a Madras High Court Judgement on Wednesday that restrained the Life Insurance Corporation of India from demolishing it.

The court has given several options for the preservation of the building. If the Heritage Conservation Committee felt that it would not be possible to retain the whole of the building, then efforts should be taken at least to retain the turrets/domes, the stone pillars and to restore the plaster and terracotta motifs.

Susan Mathew, Vice Chairperson of the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority said “It [the judgement] is in keeping with what we are doing now. The Heritage Conservation Committee that is meeting on Friday will study the order and will take appropriate action as per the directive of the court,” she added.

Historian S.Muthiah who termed the judgement as a very positive one, said “it is something that I have been asking for years. We have to see how the government reacts to it, whether it follows it in spirit or in deed.”

He also wondered whether the members of the committee, of whom many are government personnel, were competent to provide expertise on heritage and architecture.

Advocate N.L.Rajah, who appeared on behalf of INTACH, the petitioner, said the constitution of a Heritage Conservation Committee is a very important step in preserving heritage structures in the city. “Now there must be quick action to preserve at least what is left of our heritage treasures,” he said.

Architect and Valuer C.H.Gopinatha Rao said the building could be restored. “Any building can be restored. We have the technology for it. However, the only point is that is it worth retaining it?” What would be the returns for LIC in retaining it?” he asked.

(With inputs from Aloysius Xavier Lopez)

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