The porch of the Old High Court building still awaits restoration by the ASI Nagpur Circle.
By Shirish Borkar :
DESPITE the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court taking serious cognisance of the collapse of one of the three porches of the Old High Court building (City’s first National Heritage Monument), the insouciance of officials of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Nagpur Circle and their typical bureaucratic approach is delaying restoration of past glory of the ancient edifice. As per the Government of India’s policy, ASI would conserve heritage architectural marvels along with their setting with utmost care to be cherished upon by the nation as ‘National Treasures or National Icons.’ Earlier too, the ASI authorities were indifferent to conserving this iconic building. The Nagpur Bench of the Bombay Court had periodically passed several directions to the ASI after which it was declared as Nagpur’s first national heritage monument. The building was already part of city’s notified heritage structure and was accorded Grade-I status. ASI had to take utmost care to protect and preserve such heritage edifices for posterity. When contacted, Vijaykumar Somshekharan Nair, Superintending Archaeologist, ASI Nagpur Circle, told ‘The Hitavada’ that the work for re-construction and restoration of southern porch of monument would soon start on scientific lines after completing necessary formalities.
“The ASI has already procured some material required to execute the work,” he said adding, “The work was earlier hampered due to coronavirus pandemic.” The ancient Old High Court building had three porches. One on the west facing the old Secretariat building which is the main entrance. The second is in the Northern side. The 16 ft x 16 ft rear porch facing the old National Fire Service College, which was already in a dilapidated condition had collapsed on April 11, last year. However, the ASI did not start the work to restore the porch so far. Authorities concerned informed ‘The Hitavada’ that the ASI had floated tenders for reconstruction of the porch. However, none of the contractors or firms filed the tenders ‘matched’ with the tender conditions for the work. The conservation work of the 130-year-old old High Court building had started after it was declared as the first centrally-protected monument in Nagpur on March 28, 2018 by Union Ministry of Culture. It now figures in the list of more than 3,650 ancient monuments, archaeological sites and remains of national importance across the country. Subsequently, the Government had also sanctioned funds for its preservation and conservation work.
Though the financial estimates for the conservation project were approved by authorities, the conservation work hampered due to administrative apathy. The monument was constructed in 1891-93 in Nagpur, then capital of Central Provinces & Berar to house Judicial Commissioner’s Office. The building is situated on 18,228 sq mt land. The government decided to house the High Court in the building after Judicial Commissioner’s Office came to an end in 1936. In 1940, the High Court moved to its new stone building and this monument came to be known as Old High Court building. The two-storey structure built of bricks, stones, teak and Burmese wood representing Anglo-Indian or colonial architecture has thick brick walls with an arcade, verandah, arched wooden doors and Doric columns.