Hyderabad: Sternly admonishing the Telangana state government for ignoring its duty of preserving the heritage, architectural identity and character of Hyderabad, the Telangana High Court on Monday set aside the decision of the Council of Ministers to construct a new legislative Assembly complex at the Errum Manzil palace site. A division bench comprising Chief Justice Raghaven-dra Singh Chauhan and Justice Shameem Akther pronounced its verdict on the public interest litigations (PIL) challenging the proposed construction of a new Assembly complex after demolishing the existing Errum Manzil.
Observing that the proposed construction of a new legislative complex would be possible only after the demolition of the 150-year-old Errum Manzil palace, a heritage building, and other buildings located on a site of more than 30 acres of land, the Bench found fault with the state government for “ignoring its’ imperative duty to preserve heritage buildings and sense of culture and identity of the city.”
The court remarked, “The State cannot afford the luxury of forgetting that destruction of a heritage building will rob people of the essence of their identity, and will deprive the city its sense of uniqueness”.
Appreciating the people’s agitation and filing of eight PILs against the looming threat of the demolition of the palace by the decision of the council of ministers, the court said that people of the city and Telangana feel proud of their heritage and culture of their beautiful city.
The court declared that the decision of the council of ministers was in violation of various provisions of law, arbitrary and legally unsustainable.
It also remarked that the decision overlooks the orders the court issued in 2016, which had directed the government to seek permission before modifying, demolishing or altering any structure declared as heritage, under Regulation 13 of the Zoning Regulations, 1981, which continues to exist, and provides protection to “protected heritage buildings.”
“The government has overlooked the fact that under the master plan, 2010, certain areas of Hyderabad have been declared as special reservation zones (SRZ), which incorporate heritage buildings and heritage sites, and the earmarking of Errum Manzil as an SRZ,” the Court observed.
Pointing out the State government decision to repeal Regulation 13 of the zoning regulations and Errum Manzil from the Heritage Buildings List, which the State has no authority to do, and such powers are vested with the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) only, the Court opined that the state government had tried to achieve a goal indirectly, which it could not have achieved directly.
“It is a settled principle of law that what cannot be done directly, cannot be permitted to be done indirectly by an authority. Since the government cannot scuttle the authority of the HMDA directly, it cannot be permitted to do so indirectly in the garb of repealing of Regulation 13 of the Zoning Regulations, 1981,” Chief Justice Chauhan noted.
The court pointed out that the state government had not taken any permission from the HMDA to demolish the Errum Manzil and had not followed the resolutions of World Heritage Convention before the Cabinet decision to construct a new Legislative complex at the Manzil site.
“Since the Errum Manzil was shown in the master plan, 2010, as falling in the SRZ, it continues to enjoy protection given to it under Regulation 13 of Zoning Regulations. If any modification, development, re-development or demolition of a heritage building is required, then the procedure prescribed under these Regulations must necessarily be followed," the Bench said.
The council of ministers of Telangana took a decision to construct a new legislative complex at the Errum Manzil on June 19, 2019.
The Division bench heard the PILs for more than 20 days and reserved its judgment, which was pronounced on Monday.
At the time of hearing, the government had argued that judicial review was not permissible on policy decision of governments.
However, the court observed, “The Court can interfere with a decision if provisions of law have been ignored in the process of making the decision. If provisions of law have been ignored in the process of taking a decision, the decision is an arbitrary one.”...