Calcutta High Court on Friday directed the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) to file an affidavit “stating” the report of the Heritage Conservation Committee allowing the authorities of Bishop’s House to demolish the rear section of the 51, Chowringhee Road address, and construct a new building. This prime property covers 6,000 sq ft.
The court order followed a petition by non-governmental organisation People United for Better Living in Calcutta (PUBLIC), seeking to stop the construction of the proposed building. The petitioner also asked the court to frame guidelines for maintaining the city’s heritage buildings.
Petitioner’s counsel Aniruddha Bose told the court that the CMC had declared Bishop’s House a heritage building. But, when Reverend P.S.P. Raju, Bishop of Calcutta, had applied for sanction from the CMC to construct a new building by partially demolishing the present structure, the civic authorities allowed his prayer.
Appearing on behalf of the CMC, Alok Ghosh told the court that permission for construction work was given on the basis of the report of the heritage committee. “The committee reviewed the petition of the Bishop and recommended that permission may be given on condition that the front portion of the building is kept intact,” the CMC lawyer said.
He added that the Bishop’s House authorities had been asked not to demolish the façade of the building.
The division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice A.K. Banerjee asked the CMC counsel to file an affidavit “stating” the report of the heritage committee and fixed the matter for hearing after four weeks.
Bishop's House was constructed in 1848 by the Church of England as the Lord Bishop's “abode”. Bishop Heber (1825-1849) had personally supervised its construction and even raised funds for it.
The building’s heritage value is irrefutable. Besides the Ionic columns of the facia, inside, it has a very elegant wooden staircase. It has five suites on the second floor, and its walls are hung with old paintings.
In his proposal to the CMC, the Bishop has said that since the building was antiquated, the rear section behind should make way for a structure compatible with contemporary use.
An earlier move to rebuild Bishop's House into an eight-storey highrise two years ago was stalled when non-government organisations opposed it on “heritage grounds”.