Plea in HC: Fresh attempt to mark Homi Bhabha’s home a national monument

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jul 27, 2015 23:15 IST

In a fresh round of litigation, Raam Dhuri, president of an atomic energy employees association, has approached the Bombay high court again, seeking a direction to the Centre to declare Mehrangir – the residence of Dr. Homi Bhabha – a national monument.

Dhuri, president of the National Forum for Aided Institutions Employees (Department of Atomic Energy), has claimed he can produce a survey map of 1915, which proves the iconic Malabar Hill bungalow has been in existence for more than 100 years. In the first round of litigation, the Centre had expressed its inability to declare the house a national monument because it was not a century-old, as required under the Ancient Monuments, Archeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, although it wanted to preserve the 13,953-square feet bungalow in memory of late Dr. Bhabha.

Dhuri’s petition is scheduled to come up for hearing before a division bench of justice VM Kanade and justice BP Colabawalla on Tuesday, said senior advocate Rajiv Chavan, who is to represent the petitioner. The map Dhuri claims to have obtained was prepared by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) way back in 1915, and thus proves the existence of the bungalow for more than a century, he has stated.

Dhuri has pointed out that the earlier public interest litigation filed by him, along with Prashant Worlikar, a trade union leader, was disposed of by the court by asking the petitioners to make a representation to the central government, which then expressed its inability to declare the house a monument.

In the fresh petition, Dhuri stated that after obtaining the 1915 survey map, he approached the chief minister, who in turn has written to the prime minister’s office to acquire the bungalow and declare it a national monument. Besides, the trade union leader has made a separate representation to the PMO, but has not received any response.

Malabar Hill’s Mehrangir
Dr. Homi Bhabha, often called the father of the Indian nuclear programme, had bought the bungalow in 1937 and named it Mehrangir, a combination of his parents’ names –Meherbai and Jehangir

Here, Bhabha had hosted a party for Prince Philip on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the Atomic Energy Establishment, which he founded, and which was subsequently named the Bhabha Atomic Energy Centre.

India’s first prime minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, also visited Dr Bhabha in this bungalow on various occasions

After Dr. Bhabha’s death, his brother Jamshed, a patron of arts and culture, became the owner of the property and bequeathed it to National Center for Performing Arts (NCPA), to be utilised for the advancement of culture and performing arts

The NCPA, June this year, auctioned the bungalow for Rs372 crore, and now the Charity Commissioner has also granted approval for the auction sale, despite several demands to declare the house a memorial to Dr Bhabha and turn it into a museum Artistes had opposed museum demand

Opposing the demands by some scientists to turn Mehrangir into a museum, a group of film actors, authors, socialites and journalists wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June

Signatories to the letter included Anil Dharker, Alyque Padamsee, Aniruddha Bahal, Bina Ramani, Dalip Tahil, Dileep Padgaonkar, Keki Daruwala, Ramchandra Guha, Shobha De, Shyam Benegal and Vinod Mehta

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