HC directs IIT to conduct Esplanade Mansion audit

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday directed a team from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) to conduct a structural audit of the Esplanade Mansion building next to the City Civil and Sessions Court.

On July 16, a balcony of the 130-year-old Esplanade Mansion, formerly known as Watson’s Hotel, came crashing down. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) subsequently disconnected power supply to the building.

A Division Bench of Justices Ranjit More and Anuja Prabhudessai had earlier directed the BMC’s technical advisory committee (TAC) to inspect the building and submit a report on whether it should be repaired.

On Tuesday, the Bench was informed that the TAC has not been functional for the last few months. The Bench then directed IIT to take over and said the tenants will bear the cost of the audit.

In 2013, the BMC prosecuted the owner under the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act for allowing the building to stand despite being dangerous. Two petitions have been filed in the case, one by the owner and another by advocate Ashok Sarogi, appearing for the tenants. Mr. Sarogi has an office in the building and has been pleading that it be repaired.

In a joint meeting of all stakeholders in 2015, it was decided that no portion of the building was to be demolished unless permission from Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) was acquired. The building was to be propped up under the guidance of a structural engineer. However, MHCC records do not show any other application except one in 2011.

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