A day before the demolition of the 'Hall of Nations' at Pragati Maidan here is expected to start, the Delhi High Court today dismissed a plea by the building's architect to preserve it. Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva dismissed as "without merit" the plea by architect Raj Rewal, who had designed the building that was constructed in 1972. The court's verdict was based on the decision of the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC), set up for protecting heritage structures, which has held that only 60-year-old or older buildings would be considered for heritage status. The Hall of Nations, located in Delhi's exhibition ground of Pragati Maidan, being only 45 years old would not get the protection of being considered as a heritage structure as per the HCC guidelines, the court noted in its ruling. It also said that since HCC's guidelines, formulated in February this year, have not been challenged, therefore the architect has no legal right to seek preservation of the structure. The court also observed that the architect had not challenged the March 3 decision of the Delhi Urban Arts Commission which had approved the plan for an integrated exhibition centre that would come up at the Pragati Maidan. The court, however, said its judgement will not prevent the architect from seeking any relief under the Copyright Act which provides for seeking damages if an artistic work is "modified or mutilated". During the hour-long arguments, Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, appearing for the Centre, opposed Rewal's plea contending that the Hall of Nations was "not a one-of- its-kind architectural marvel." He said buildings by other eminent architects in Pragati Maidan have already been or would be demolished. He also said that once an expert view has been taken by the HCC and DUAC, judicial interference in the decision is not called for. Additional Solicitor General P S Patwalia, who appeared for the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) which is the body responsible for Pragati Maidan, said it has to adhere to the project schedule. As per the schedule, the demolitions have to be completed and the debris removed by May 31 and the fresh construction has to start from June 1, he said. While Rewal's plea was dismissed, a similar plea by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) seeking heritage status for the Hall of Nations was adjourned to May 1. The court had earlier said that if the central government does not want to retain the 'Hall of Nations' at Pragati Maidan, how can it be forced to do so. ITPO had earlier urged the court not to intervene in the proposed demolition, saying the Rs 2,500-crore project would be a good development for the city.
It had submitted that the project was approved at the highest levels, including the Prime Minister's Office. It had said that under the project, an international exhibition and convention centre with a seating capacity of 7,000 and parking for 4,800-5,000 cars, would be built in the 123 acres where Pragati Maidan exists now. Once it comes up, the G20 Summit would be held there.