Finally, it is curtains for Chanakya Theatre, which was the most sought-after destination for Delhi’s cinegoers till the advent of multiplexes. The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the New Delhi Municipal Council’s (NDMC’s) decision to demolish the theatre for the construction of a multiplex.
The verdict came five years after the civic agency, which had given the land on lease in 1971, issued an “end notice” to the theatre’s management. The top court upheld the judgement of the Delhi High Court, which had on August 30, 2005, ordered Aggarwal and Modi Enterprises to hand over the hall’s possession to NDMC, and directed the present management to vacate the premises by December 31.
The Urban Development Ministry had given the 1.69-acre area known as Yashwant Place to NDMC in 1965. Chanakya cinema opened in 1971 on 34,000 sq ft. Besides Chanakya, the area also houses 32 shops. NDMC refused to renew the cinema’s licence in 2002 because the deal was no more profitable. According to NDMC, while the cinema management was making more than Rs 1.5 crore every year through advertisements, parking fees and other activities, it was paying just Rs 15.5 lakh as licence fee.
Aggarwal and Modi Enterprises offered to pay the reserve price that the council plans to propose for the complex. NDMC, however, turned down the offer and insisted on pulling down the cinema hall for a new commercial complex.
Advocate Arun Jaitley, appearing on behalf of the council, argued that the petitioner had failed to honour the agreement it had signed with NDMC in 1970. “How can I be bound down by a person who is paying me just Rs 2 lakh as licence fee for a property worth over Rs 100 crore?” Jaitley asked.
The Supreme Court asked the petitioner to take part in the public auction.