In a major setback to the Telangana government, the High court today barred it from demolishing the Errum Manzil, a heritage structure built during the reign of the sixth Nizam by one of the nobles of that time. The K Chandrasekhar Rao government wanted to bring it down in order to build a new Assembly building. The cabinet had decided in June this year to demolish the structure.
The bench that included Chief Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Shameem Akhter was hearing a batch of PIL petitions that had challenged the government’s decision. Calling the decision of the cabinet “an arbitrary one”, it said it is legally unsustainable.
The PIL had argued that construction of a new Assembly complex was a waste of public money as the present majestic structure, which used to serve as the Town Hall during the Nizam’s reign, is in fine condition and spacious to accommodate all MLAs and officers. The court also agreed with the petitioners’ argument that Errum Manzil is a 150-year-old heritage building and needed to be protected.
The government took recourse to the new Heritage Act which had removed Errum Manzil from the list of heritage structures. It had proposed to build the complex at a cost of Rs 100 crore.
The court used strong language to convey its disapproval of what the government sought to do. In its order, it said : “The State cannot afford the luxury of forgetting that the destruction of heritage building will rob its people the essence of their identity and will deprive the city its sense of uniqueness. While it is important to plan for the future, it is equally important to protect, to preserve and to promote the past.”
Apart from the Assembly, the Telangana government also plans to demolish the present Secretariat and build a new integrated complex in its place. There is opposition to the plan with critics questioning the move since this would easily entail an initial expenditure of Rs 400 to 500 crore.