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Saturday, 28 January 2012

Gokhale Hall gets a new lease of life


CHENNAI: The historic Gokhale Hall, which escaped the sledge-hammer in 2008 due to an eleventh hour intervention by the Madras high court, is all set to get a new lease of life as the court has now asked the authorities to implement a comprehensive restoration plan.

A division bench comprising Justice Elipe Dharma Rao and Justice N Kirubakaran, passing orders on a public interest writ petition filed by a Young Men's Indian Association (YMIA) life member E Jayakumar, also said that it was satisfied with the revival package drafted by the Heritage Conservation Committee of the CMDA. The PIL wanted the court to direct the civic authorities to take all necessary steps to protect the Besant Memorial Building alias Gokhale Hall as a heritage building and to take appropriate steps for its preservation.

The hall was in news for wrong reasons, after the incumbent office-bearers of the YMIA had decided to raze it and construct a commercial complex at the site. Just when the demolition started in 2008, the high court stepped in and stayed its further damage.

It later asked the INTACH to conduct a survey of the structure and file a report. On the basis of its report on June 11, 2010, the court had directed the Heritage Conservation Committee of the CMDA to inspect the hall and submit its report. Its report was filed on October 31, 2011.

The present bench headed by Justice Elipe Dharma Rao accepted its recommendations, and said suggestions such as uprooting all vegetation growths in the building and he premises would revive the building. Concurring with the submissions of the committee, the judges said all wooden and other materials including floor planks, wooden roof joints, windows and door frames/shutters should be retained, as they would be required for restoration. Besides removing debris from the premises, the authorities must protect the building from the elements by covering it with all-weather materials. "We are satisfied that if the said measures are taken, it will protect the hall," the judges said closing the PIL.

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