Esplanade Mansion case: HC asks landlord to submit cost estimate for structure’s restorationUpdated: Feb 12, 2020 00:51 IST
The Bombay high court (HC) on Tuesday has directed the landlord of Esplanade Mansion to submit the cost estimates for the conservation and restoration of the building which houses 146 tenants. The direction was prompted after there was a discrepancy in the estimates submitted by the court-appointed experts, which ranged from ₹23 crore to ₹98 crore, following which the state government and the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) submitted that they were not in a position to bear the expenses.
The landlord agreed to submit the estimates after some of the tenants informed the court that they were willing to contribute to the restoration and conservation expenses. The landlord had been directed to submit the estimates by February 20.
The division bench of justice SJ Kathawalla and justice BP Colabawalla, while hearing the petition to save the heritage structure, was informed by the experts that they had submitted their respective expense reports, but there was a huge difference in both the estimates.
Abha Lamba, one of the experts who submitted a cost of ₹98 crore, said that apart from structural stability, she had also taken into account the architectural stability of the building, which lead to the escalation in the cost estimates. She added that as the premise had to be made habitable, the restoration of the interior of the structure, as well as the provision of plumbing, electricity and other expenses were also taken into consideration.
Another expert, Chetan Raikar, who submitted an estimate of ₹23 crore, said the amount was only to “restore the structure to its past glory”, and even if the internal expenses were considered, the estimate would come only up to ₹45-50 crore.
The counsel for Mhada submitted that it did not have any provision of funds to foot the expenses, as it was a privately-owned structure. The state, through additional government pleader Himanshu Takke, submitted that as it was a private building, the cost would put a burden on the exchequer, which it was not willing to bear, though it had assured United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) of making efforts to restore the grade-2 heritage structure to its former glory.
Advocate Chirag Balsara, the counsel for the structure’s landlord, submitted that as some tenants had expressed willingness to contribute for the restoration and conservation of the structure, and as it was solely the prerogative of the landlord to undertake the work, he would take instructions from his client and try to come up with an estimate for the interior and exteriors of the structure, which was in the range of ₹50 crore.
The court allowed the submission and posted the matter for hearing on February 20.