High Court quashes PIL against demolition of Devaraja Market
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High Court quashes PIL against demolition of Devaraja Market

August 10, 2023

Mysore/Mysuru: The Karnataka High Court has dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition that raised concerns about Mysuru City Corporation’s (MCC) plan to demolish and reconstruct the 137-year-old Devaraja Market (built in 1886) due to its deteriorated condition.

A Division Bench, headed by Chief Justice Prasanna B. Varale and Justice M.G.S. Kamal, issued the ruling on

August 8 while rejecting a petition filed in 2020 by D. Shrijay Devaraj, Raja Chandra, Gouri Satya, Yashaswini Sharma and N. Niranjan Nikam.

They had challenged the MCC’s 2019 resolution to demolish the existing market and construct a new one.

The petitioners claimed that the 3.67-acre Devaraja Market structure had been designated as a heritage building in the Master Plan-2031 for Mysuru-Nanjangud Local Planning Area. They argued that the Devaraja Market building had not been thoroughly assessed by professionals with the necessary technology or expertise in the field. Therefore, the resolution to demolish the building due to weakened walls was flawed, according to the petitioners.

In December 2020, the High Court ordered the State Government and the MCC not to proceed with the implementation of the Dec. 10, 2019 resolution of the Special Heritage Committee. This Committee had recommended the demolition and reconstruction of the Devaraja Market.

Heritage Committee endorsement

In the latest Court ruling, the Judges acknowledged that two Heritage Committees, comprising experts, had already endorsed the decision to demolish the deteriorated structure. The Court emphasised that it could not disregard the recommendations of these expert panels, especially considering the imminent threat posed by the old building.

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The Court also noted that sections of the Market had collapsed on two separate occasions, once during restoration efforts. Due to a lack of proper maintenance, the northern entrance was damaged by rainwater in 2016. Additionally, in 1981, 150 shops, in 1990, 175 shops, and in 1990, 30 shops were destroyed in a fire.

Following the Court’s order to halt the MCC’s Dec. 10, 2019 resolution, the MCC established a Heritage Conservation Committee. In April 2022, this Committee also concluded that the dilapidated heritage structure should be demolished and replaced with a new building while preserving the heritage architectural style. The petitioners had contested this decision by the Heritage Conservation Committee.

Contention of petitioners

Although the Devaraja Market building has been designated as a Grade-1 heritage building in the Master Plan-2031 for Mysuru-Nanjangud, the petitioners argued that the Special Heritage Committee had failed to consider various expert opinions suggesting that the Devaraja Market could be restored. They asserted that the structure must be protected and conserved, and any development plan should align with the amendment to Zonal Regulations.

However, the High Court found no grounds to interfere with the Committee’s decision and rejected the petitioner’s argument that the Structural Engineer on the Committee lacked the necessary specialisation in Structural Engineering. The Court’s investigation revealed that this Structural Engineer was a retired expert who held a Master’s Degree in Structural Engineering from one of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).

It’s worth noting that the State Government had established a Task Force that recommended the demolition of Devaraja Market. Additionally, the Heritage Committee had previously opposed this move, suggesting that repairs could be undertaken without resorting to demolition.

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