The Delhi High Court today directed the parties concerned that the two reports on inspection of the building in central Delhi, where the Delhi Public Library (DPL) is housed, be placed before the Urban Development Ministry’s secretary for a decision about its safety.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Anu Malhotra said the inspection reports of IIT Delhi and the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) be placed before the secretary for further consideration who will be at liberty to decide if testing and inspection of the premises, housing the 55-year-old library branch at Karol Bagh, was necessary.
“These two reports needs to be scrutinised by experts who would have the knowledge as to how structural stability is maintained,” the bench said and listed the matter for further hearing on May 24.
It said this exercise should be done as soon as possible and the secretary should also grant opportunity to the parties concerned before taking the final decision.
The court also said its interim order restraining the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) from demolishing the building would continue.
The court noted the issue is that partial demolition has been effected and it needs to be examined how unsafe the building is.
Keeping in mind its safety, evaluation of the premises is necessary as per the building by-laws, it said.
During the hearing, the owner of the premises, Dimple Enterprises, proposed that he was ready to pay market price for reopening the library on any government land.
The counsel appearing for the Delhi Library Board said it was the biggest library chain and they wished to open the branch as early as possible.
The court was hearing a petition filed by some scholars and journalists, who have moved against the corporation’s two notices to DPL to vacate the premises claiming that the building was structurally unfit and dangerous.
Advocate Ashok Aggarwal, appearing for petitioners, said the inspection report given by a private body says that the building was dangerous while the report by a government agency says it is not.
The court had earlier stopped the NDMC from taking any further step, saying the library “shall be kept closed and nobody shall be permitted to enter the premises till further order”.
The first notice was issued to the library on September 15 last year and the next one on November 4, asking it to vacate the premises so that the building could be demolished.
Seeking quashing of the notices, the petitioners have alleged that the owner of the premises, Dimple Enterprises, “wants a commercial complex to come up in place of this library in order to make money from this land”.
“The NDMC has been manipulated by using corrupt practices to declare the premises as dangerous now, while in 2011, the same civic body had certified the building as safe provided minor maintenance (was carried out). Still the library building is being demolished due to pressure and corrupt tactics by the owners,” the plea said.
Stating that there was “no likelihood of immediate danger to passers-by or others while entering the premises,” the petitioners have sought appointment of a court commissioner “to inspect, evaluate and analyse the current status and condition of the library”.
They have also sought a direction to “initiate enquiry against the NDMC officials concerned and the chairman/defaulting officials concerned of the Delhi Library Board or DPL”.
Funded by the Ministry of Culture, the board is an autonomous body which has around 45 branches and mobile libraries across Delhi. It comprises officers from both the central and Delhi governments, intellectuals, members of the Legislative Assembly and councillors.
The first Delhi Public Library was started by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru across the old Delhi railway station in 1951.
( Source – PTI )