Former Mayor urges for protection of Shimla’s historic Town Hall from commercialization
Shimla, May 16
The iconic Town Hall in Shimla, has served as the administrative center for the city since ages. However, the decision to hand over the historic building into private hands for commercial purposes has sparked a call to protect this important heritage site. A day after the newly elected Deputy Mayor objected that her office has been shifted from here, now the Former Mayor of the Municipal Corporation Shimla, Sanjay Chauhan, has raised concerns.
“ But in the events that happened after the election of Mayor and Deputy Mayor yesterday, even the Deputy Mayor has not been given office in it, stated Chauhan. Adding, “ This is an attack on the autonomy of the Municipal Corporation which is a constitutional body. The Government should immediately withdraw this decision and while maintaining the autonomy of the Municipal Corporation, he demanded.
Chauhan, who is also the District Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), has written an open letter to the Honorable Chief Minister, Thakur Sukhwinder Singh, urging immediate action to prevent the Town Hall from being transferred to private ownership. He highlights that the move violates the constitutional obligations and responsibilities of the government and the Municipal Corporation Shimla.
According to official records, the Town Hall belongs to the Municipal Corporation Shimla, with an area of 474-18 square meters dedicated to its operations. “However, in 2015, the state government took over the building for renovations, and upon completion in 2021, a proposal was passed by the former BJP-led Municipal Corporation Shimla to commercialize the Town Hall,” stated Chauhan.
Chauhan argues that handing over the Town Hall to private entities not only undermines the constitutional responsibilities of the Municipal Corporation but also deprives them of a dedicated space for conducting essential meetings.
The former Mayor emphasizes that town halls worldwide have traditionally been under the jurisdiction of municipal bodies, housing their administrative offices. The decision to transfer the Town Hall into private hands disregards the public’s interests and contravenes the Himachal Pradesh Municipal Corporation Act, 1994.
Here is it pertinent to mention that even the High court of Himachal Pradesh had affirmed this decision of the previous government, that building should be used only for ‘public purposes’ and not to house any ‘Government Office’ other than that of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. A Division Bench comprising of Chief Justice V Ramasubramanian and Justice Anoop Chitkara on September 6, 2019, passed an order in this matter.
“We are of the considered view that while permitting the Municipal Corporation to locate the offices of the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor in the Town Hall, the Municipal Corporation, in consultation with the Government, should come up with innovative ideas to put the Town Hall to best use (i) from the point of view of preserving the heritage, and (ii) so as to derive income from such activities which will showcase the beauty of the hill station and the culture and traditional arts of the people of the State,” had stated the court.
However, the SMC has challenged the Himachal Pradesh High court in the Supreme court to set aside the order passed by the court against the property title.
The Municipal Corporation building or the Town Hall is located on the Mall Road. Originally this heritage building was designed as ‘New Library and Offices’ by a Scottish Architect, Mr James Ransome. The original building, designed as a library, was constructed in 1908, but after a few decades, the offices of the Municipal Corporation came to be located in the said building.
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