Mayor Sovan Chatterjee has given permission to rebuild the fire-ravaged illegal floors of Burrabazar’s Nandram market on the basis of a Calcutta High Court order that left it to him to accept or reject the application.
“I am of the view that the owner of the premises will restrengthen the building up to the 13th floor under the strict supervision of the civil engineering department of Jadavpur University…(and) demolish the vulnerable portion as per the recommendations of the (technical) committee,” the mayor said in a notification issued on November 12.
JU professor Somnath Ghosh, the head of that technical committee, had recommended reconstruction or retrofitting only up to the eighth-floor roof.
Legal experts said the court’s carte blanche to the mayor came because the Calcutta Municipal Corporation allegedly did not remind Justice Jayanta Kumar Biswas about a ruling 20 years ago to demolish all illegal floors at Nandram above the fifth.
According to lawyers, withholding information germane to a case could be construed as deceit.
The judge was hearing a writ petition accusing the civic body of sitting on an application by a conglomerate of traders to rebuild portions of the 14-storey market, where the 100-hour blaze five years ago destroyed many small and large businesses.
Brabourne Properties (P) Ltd had applied to the CMC in January 2012 to rebuild the market. The traders waited 11 months for a response before moving court.
“According to the CMC Act of 1980 and Rule 18 of the CMC Building Rules 2009, the civic authorities should reject, accept or process within 60 days of receipt any building proposal,” an official of the civic body’s law department said.
Mayor Chatterjee confirmed that he had decided to allow the upper floors of Nandram to be rebuilt. “I heard a representation by the petitioners, based on the high court’s order. I have allowed them to rebuild the fire-ravaged market in accordance with the guidelines of experts from Jadavpur University and the fire brigade,” he told Metro.
“They needn’t demolish all floors above the fifth anymore,” he said.
On why the civic body didn’t mention the high court’s order two decades ago, the mayor said: “I do not know of any earlier high court order.”
Officials said once the civic body approved Nandram’s reconstruction plan, its illegal floors would become legal.
Nandram, the largest linen and textile market in the city, had grown to be a 24-storey building in the Eighties. After the high court ruled that all floors above the fifth were illegal, the CMC started pulling them down over two years, but stopped at the 13th floor.
The topic was unofficially buried until the 100-hour fire in the tinderbox building.
When the trader community of Nandram approached the court to rebuild the gutted portions, Justice Biswas put the onus on the mayor to take a decision based on the rules.
“The mayor will be free to deal with it according to the provisions of Section 308 and Rule 18 (of the CMC Act and Building Rules),” he said on January 29 this year.
Veteran lawyers said the CMC should have reminded the judge of the high court’s ruling on Nandram.
“It is not possible for the judge to know what order was passed so many years back. But since the CMC is aware of the judgment, it was its duty to inform the court. I believe the court will withdraw its own order after it comes to know about the earlier demolition order,” high court lawyer Uday Shankar Chatterjee said.