The National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) will oppose the Government of India’s move to acquire Homi Bhabha’s bungalow, ‘Mehrangir,’ and convert it into a museum.
“Although the objective of the litigants is laudable, it is completely misplaced,” Prashant Karkare, Director — Legal, Special Projects & HR, NCPA, told The-Hindu on Tuesday.
The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) had told the Bombay High Court on Monday that the Prime Minister was exploring the possibility of adopting appropriate proceedings to acquire the property to maintain it as a monument. The intervention application pleaded for allowing status quo to ensure that the buyer did not pull down the structure. Employees of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) have filed a public interest litigation petition seeking grant of heritage status to the property.
The auction of the bungalow last week had fetched a record price of Rs. 372 crore. The 17,150 square foot property located at Malabar hill, an upscale locality of the city, was purchased by Smita Crishna-Godrej for Rs. 2.18 lakh a square foot.
“Mr. J.J.Bhabha was the sole owner of the property… His will has been filed in court,” Mr. Karkare said. The senior director of the Tata Group, who passed away in 2007, wanted the bungalow to be auctioned and the proceeds used for the development and the upkeep of the NCPA, a non-profit organisation.
“The will is explicit and before the auction due diligence was done. In fact, all bidders exercised due diligence as these were informed bids,” said Ujwala Rao, Head (Western India) Capital Markets, Jones Lang LaSalle India, advisers to the transaction. But official sources said the government had the right to acquire any property in public interest.
The DAE has already approached the Maharashtra government, requesting it to declare the bungalow a protected structure.
The Bombay High Court has given the department a week’s time to file a detailed reply to a PIL filed in this matter.