HC stays demolition of Patna’s historic Sultan Palace
In June this year, the Nitish Kumar cabinet had given its nod to build three five-star hotels in Patna, including one on the site where the Sultan Palace currently stands on Beer Chand Patel Road. The government had then said that the structure would be razed to make way for a high-rise hotel.
The Patna High Court has stayed the proposed demolition of the historic Sultan Palace in Bihar’s capital to build a five-star hotel and sought a reply from the state government on its decision to raze the iconic 100-year-old landmark in the heart of the city.
The stay on the demolition of the palace, built in 1922 by barrister Sir Sultan Ahmed, was granted by the court during an online hearing on Friday on a PIL (public interest litigation) filed recently, according to lawyers of the petitioner.
The move has brought much-needed relief to heritage lovers and a large cross-section of the citizenry, which had been demanding that the authorities to roll back the decision and instead restore and reuse the palace.
The PIL was filed by a young Patna-based lawyer and this was the first hearing in the case, said a member of a team of lawyers who appeared on behalf of him during the hearing.
“The PIL, Amarjeet vs Union of India, against the decision of Bihar government to demolish the heritage building ‘Sultan Palace’ in Patna, which is commonly known as Parivahan Bhawan, was filed before the Patna High Court a few weeks ago. A division bench of the Chief Justice of the High Court Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S Kumar stayed the proposed demolition of the Sultan Palace,” the member said.
The court has sought a reply from the Bihar government as to why it has planned to demolish the heritage building, asking it to furnish the response in eight weeks.
Petitioner and lawyer Amarjeet, 28, said one of the judges in the bench also cited the example of Rajasthan, where old heritage buildings have been restored, re-purposed and reused as hotels or for other purposes, and celebrated.
In June this year, the Nitish Kumar cabinet had given its nod to build three five-star hotels in Patna, including one on the site where the palace currently stands on Beer Chand Patel Road. The government had then said that the imposing structure would be razed to make way for a high-rise hotel.
Soon after the decision was made public, heritage lovers took to social media decrying the move. Some of them cited the state government’s older decision, taken a few years ago, to convert the palace into a “heritage hotel” and asked why it discarded the widely-reported old plan.
Historians, conservationists, and ordinary citizens of the country have since vehemently opposed the decision and appealed to authorities to preserve and restore the “architectural icon” and not raze a veritable “pride of Patna and the country.”
Ironically, the Sultan Palace finds a mention in the 2008 Bihar government publication “Patna: A Monumental History”. “Sultan Palace is a beautiful example of Islamic architecture, its palatial look comes from its high-domed tower in the centre and the domed pavilions at the two ends of the roof. This is further stressed by slender minarets rising at angles and the series of multi-foliated arches in the facade,” reads the chapter in it on the palatial building, which sits in a sprawling campus of more than four acres.
The palace, located on the historic Gardiner Road (now Beer Chand Patel Road) near R-Block area, was built in 1922 by the renowned barrister of Patna, Sir Sultan Ahmed, who also briefly served as a judge in the Patna High Court, and then as the first Indian vice-chancellor of the Patna University from 1923-30. He later also became a member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council for law, and information and broadcasting, and was part of the delegation of India for the historic Round Table Conferences in 1930s in London, along with Mahatma Gandhi.
Citizens in early August had taken their protest online, trending #SaveSultanPalace to highlight the vulnerability of the historic landmark.
“The state capital has already lost many such structures and this building, which has remained a landmark of the city for decades, too was marked for demolition. The High Court has given it a new lease of life,” Kunal, a heritage enthusiast, said.