The Karnataka High Court passed an interim order on Thursday, October 7 to maintain status quo on the heritage structure Balabrooie Guest House till the next hearing on November 19. This after the Karnataka Assembly Speaker Vishweshwar Kageri said that the 170-year-old building was to be converted into a Constitution Club for legislators and their families. The Karnataka HC said that the building should not be handed over to any organisation or put to use till further instructions.
The interim order came after a plea was filed by an activist and environmentalist Dattatraya Devare along with the Bangalore Environmental Trust. The plea alleged that the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act was not being implemented by the state government.
The counsel for the petitioner told the HC that the Balabrooie Guest House has the â€˜largest water towerâ€™ and the campus has century-old trees. It also has the historical importance of having been visited by various eminent dignitaries. The petitioners contended before the HC that the structure cannot be changed and no felling of trees can take place, adding that the trees have roots that have spread over 40-50 feet.
A bench headed by acting Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma directed the Horticulture Department to review the trees and file a detailed report in time for the next date of hearing. The HC also told the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to conduct a tree census at the adjoining compound which houses the official residence of the Karnataka Chief Secretary, at the official bungalow allotted to ministers known as the seven ministers bungalow, as well as at the National Gallery of Modern Art.
It further added that till the next date of hearing, the parties are to maintain the status quo. And the building cannot be touched, and there will be no felling of trees or cutting of shrubs without the leave of the Court.
On Monday, Speaker Vishweshwar Kageri had announced in a press conference that the Balabrooie Guest House - situated close to the state secretariat Vidhana Soudha - will be converted into a club for legislators after minor renovations. He added that the club will also include the 14 acres of the land situated around the guest house. Reports had indicated that the trees in the compound may be cut or trimmed to make way for a parking space for the club.
In 2008, there had been a similar plan for a leisure club for legislators which was later dropped. Even in 2014 during Siddaramaiahâ€™s tenure as Chief Minister, there had been a plan to raze the guest house and build a club there, which was discarded after massive protests.