Karnataka High Court Permits Govt To Convert Balabrooie Guest House Into Constitutional Club After State Says No Structural Modifications Planned
The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday permitted the State government to convert the Balabrooie Guest House, which is home to 150-200 years-old trees, into a Constitutional club.
A division bench of Chief Justice Prasanna B Varale and Justice Ashok S Kinagi modified its order dated October 7, 2021 by which the court had directed the state government to maintain status quo, until the next date of hearing, in respect of the Balabrooie Guest House. The court had also restrained the authorities from felling/ trimming trees, cutting shrubs, without the leave of the court, at the guest house and in its adjoining areas.
Seeking vacation of the stay order, the government earlier told the court that there is no proposal of reconstruction, redesign, demolition of the guest house.
"There is only a proposal of maintenance of the building by improving the aesthetic of the interiors of the building without making any structural modifications or changing the exterior or interior work of the building to accommodate the Constitutional club. Further, for this purpose no trees will be felled and there will be no damage to trees in the guest house area," the State assured the court.
The bench took on record the assurance and said the state government is directed to carry out only maintenance of the interior of the guest house without making any modification or changing the exterior. "Further, it is undertaken that there will be no damage to the trees in the guest house area, the court recorded.
It accordingly modified the order passed in 2021 and directed the government to carry out maintenance of the building by improving the aesthetic of the interior of the building without making any modification.
"There will be no damage to the trees in respect of the house area. Also the state is permitted to convert the guest house into a Constitutional Club," said the court.
The Speaker of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly in a press conference had earlier announced the State's decision to establish a 'Constitution Club' at the Guest House. Following which, the petitioner DT Devare had through his advocate Pradeep Nayak moved an application to bring it to the notice of the court about the proposed change.
Nayak had submitted that the Balabrooie Guest House is a historical building on a 14-acre campus constructed by Mark Cubbon, who was serving as the Commissioner of the then Mysore State. He wanted to build a structure resembling those in his hometown on an island in the Irish Sea, the court was told.
"The Guest House in question is the 'biggest water tower' in Bengaluru Township and as the century-old trees have roots spread over across 40 feet, the trees can absorb huge quantities of rainwater. Moreover, many dignitaries like Sir M.Visvesvaraya, Sri Mahatma Gandhi, Sri Rabindranath Tagore, Prime Ministers, Chief Ministers have stayed in the Guest House in question; The Balabrooie Guest House is having more than 200 years old trees and the area adjoining to Balabrooie Guest house i.e., Chief Secretary's Residence, National Gallery of Modern Art and Ministers' Quarters, also having 100-200 years old trees," he had said.
He had pleaded for restraining the authorities from felling of trees for construction of "Constitution Club" in Balabrooie Guest House and also in and around the Guest House in question.
The court had said: "We are aware of the scope of the present petition filed as a Public Interest Litigation(PIL). However, in the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case, we are enlarging the scope of the present PIL, as the Balabrooie Guest House and its adjoining areas have 150-200 years old trees. The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is directed to carry out a tree census of the entire area in question. After carrying out the tree census, the BBMP shall file a detailed and exhaustive report, within a period of four weeks."
The court, had then till the next date of hearing, directed the state government to maintain the status quo in respect of the guest house.
Case Title: D T Devare v. State of Karnataka
Case No: WP 17841/2018