Centre moves Bombay HC to acquire Homi Bhabha's bungalow

Nearly a week after the Jamshyd Godrej family took possession of late nuclear scientist Homi Bhabha's bungalow in Mumbai's upscale Malabar Hill, the central government has now informed the Bombay High Court of its plans to take over  the bungalow and convert it into a museum.

nuclear scientist Homi Bhabha'sOn Thursday, last week, a day after the bungalow 'Mehrangir' was sold to Jamshyd Godrej, chairman of the Godrej group of companies for Rs372 crore, the Maharashtra government had written to prime minister Narendra Modi asking him to intervene and acquire the iconic property.

"The Office of the Prime Minister of India has written a letter to the Department of Legal Affairs to present the central government's viewpoint before the court. The office of the Prime Minister is exploring possibilities of adopting appropriate proceedings to acquire Homi Bhabha's property to retain his memory," an affidavit filed by the under secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) said.

The DAE has also urged the Maharashtra government to declare the bungalow as a protected monument under the Maharashtra Ancient Monuments and Archeological Sites and Remains Act, 1960.

It added that making the bungalow a museum-cum-exhibition centre would inspire the youth of India and would be a great tribute to Homi Bhabha.

A division bench headed by Chief Justice Mohit Shah posted the matter for further hearing on 30 June.

Employees of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) represented by Atomic Energy Workers and Staff Union as well as the National Forum for Aided Institutions Employees (Department of Atomic Energy) had earlier filed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking to halt the sale of the bungalow.

"The late Homi Jehangir Bhabha was a renowned person throughout the world and an asset to our country. He spent all his lifetime in the bungalow and also ran his office from here," the petition said.

"Bhabha is the father of Atomic Research Centre in India. In such circumstances, the bungalow owned and possessed by the late Homi Jehangir Bhabha can very well fall under the four corners of being a heritage structure and is required to be preserved," the petition said.

The PIL has sought directions to the chief secretary (Maharashtra), chairman of the Heritage Committee and National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA), to preserve and declare the three-storey 'Mehrangir' bungalow as a heritage structure.

The three-storey bungalow with a built-up area of over 17,150 sq ft on a plot measuring 1,600 sq m, offers a beautiful view of the sea.

After Bhabha's death in a plane crash 1966, his brother Jamshed, a patron of art and culture, became the custodian of the estate.

On Jamshed's death in 2007, the property was transferred to NCPA, an institution he had nurtured.