HC Says No to Injunction Against Transfer of Bhabha's Bungalow

HC Says No to Injunction Against Transfer of Bhabha's Bungalow

The Bombay High Court today refused to grant any injunction against the transfer of south Mumbai bungalow of the late Dr Homi Bhabha, the pioneer of India's nuclear program, to the buyer who purchased it at an auction for Rs 372 crore recently.

The division bench headed by Chief Justice Mohit Shah was hearing a public interest litigation seeking a direction to Government to acquire and convert the bungalow 'Mehrangir' into a museum.

Senior advocate Aspi Chenoy, the lawyer of Smita Crishna Godrej who purchased the bungalow, told the court that she would use it as a residence and had no plans to demolish it.

The court recorded the statement, and said the transaction for transfer of property may be dealt with by the charity commissioner as per the law. However, judges added, this would not prevent the state and the Union Government from taking any steps to acquire it.

The Union Government's lawyer stated that it was planning to acquire `Mehrangir' and turn it into a monument under the Maharashtra Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act. However, a response from Prime Minister's office on this was awaited.

"We are exploring legal ways to declare Bhabha's house as a monument. For this, two conditions are necessary (to be fulfilled) - it should have historical importance and should be standing for 50 years or more. In this case, both conditions are met," Senior Counsel R V Desai said.

The government was seeking instructions as to the methodology from the Prime Minister's Office, he submitted.

The court then asked the Union Government to make its stand clear by filing an affidavit within three weeks and adjourned the hearing to August 25. It also asked Maharashtra government to consider including it in the list of heritage structures.

After Dr Bhabha's death in a plane crash in 1966, his brother Jamshed became custodian of the bungalow. After Jamshed's death in 2007 it was transferred to National Centre for Performing Arts.

The present petition, filed by employees of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) here, contends that Dr Bhabha lived in this bungalow for most of his life, and if turned into a museum-cum-exhibition centre, it would inspire the youth and would be a great tribute to him.

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