In the face of protests and demands for converting it into a museum, ‘Mehrangir’, the iconic bungalow of Homi J Bhabha in Malabar Hill, was on Wednesday sold at an auction for Rs 372 crore.
The bungalow went under the hammer at the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA), its custodian. It had issued a public notice inviting developers and investors interested in purchasing the bungalow in March.
Employees of Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) had long been opposed to the move. The hopes of a large group of BARC employees are now pinned on a PIL filed in the Bombay High Court, demanding a cancellation on the auction.
The next date for hearing has now been fixed for June 23. There has been a demand that instead of an auction, the house should be converted into a heritage and museum.
Eminent scientist and Bharat Ratna recipient CNR Rao told HT over phone, “This is really unfortunate and should not have happened. I tried my best to prevent it from being sold. We should have kept it as a heritage for the country.”
At the time of submission, there were eight bidders but in the final round, there were three bidders.
The identity of the person who bought the bungalow was not revealed. The minimum bid price for the bungalow was fixed at Rs 257 crore.
After Bhabha, the pioneer of India's atomic energy programme, died in 1966, his brother Jamshed became the custodian of the Bhabha estate.
An avid patron of arts and culture, Jamshed Bhabha, had willed the property to the NCPA, which he had founded.
“It is a probated will of Dr J J Bhabha and the NCPA is obliged to auction as per the process laid down the Public Trust Act. We have handed over all the things of Dr Homi Bhabha which includes his papers to BARC,” Khushroo Suntook, NCPA chairperson, told HT.
Prashant Motiram Worlikar, the president of Atomic Energy Workers' & Staff Union as well as one of the petitioners, said, “We have not lost hope. We are in search for the will, which will spell out the truth.”