New Delhi, May 13 (PTI) The Supreme Court on Friday paved the way for the demolition of the 18th century Patna Collectorate complex, part of which was built during the Dutch era, saying that not every building built by colonial rulers needs to be preserved.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant said that had it been a building that housed freedom fighters, then it could have been a heritage building but it was used by Dutch to store opium.

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The bench dismissed an appeal filed by Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).

“We have a large number of buildings from the colonial era. There are some from the British era, some from the Dutch era, and some even from the French era in Kerala and other places. There may be some buildings having historical value but not all buildings have such value”, the bench said.

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Appearing for INTACH advocate Roshan Santhalia said that the building was not so unsafe as was projected by the state government and it needs to be protected.

Senior advocate Maninder Singh, appearing for the state government, said that the building was in a dilapidated state and endangers human life.

He said that even the Archaeological Survey of India said that it has no heritage value and Bihar Urban Arts and Heritage Commission has given approval for the demolition of the building in 2020.

Justice Surya Kant said, “From the pictures itself it is clear that it is an uninhabitable building and its roof has fallen from many places. This was a godown used by the British to store saltpetre and opium”.

The bench then dismissed the plea and paved the way for the demolition of the building.

On September 18, 2020, the top court had ordered status quo in the case related to the demolition of the centuries-old Patna Collectorate complex, part of which was built during the Dutch era, two days after Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar laid the foundation stone for the new structure.

The chief minister had laid the foundation stone of 29 buildings worth Rs 622.22 crore, including the construction of a new structure for the Patna Collectorate.

The top court was informed that this complex, which also includes Dutch-era and British-era buildings, has a historical significance and should be preserved as a “Signpost of History”.

Even the Dutch ambassador in 2016 had appealed for preserving the “shared heritage” of India and the Netherlands, the court was informed.

On September 1, 2020, the Patna High Court had vacated the stay ordered in 2019 on the demolition of the historic structure, part of which was also used for storage of opium and saltpetre.

The top court had sought a response from the Bihar government on the plea filed by INTACH, Patna Chapter, challenging the High Court order.

In 2016, the then Dutch ambassador, Alphonsus Stoelinga, had written to the Bihar Chief Minister appealing to preserve this "shared heritage" of the two countries and have it listed under the Bihar state archaeology department.

The state government had in 2016 proposed to demolish the old Patna Collectorate for a new high-rise complex, triggering public outcry and appeals from various quarters in India and abroad to prevent the demolition.

The complex, parts of which are over 250 years old, is situated on the banks of the Ganga and is endowed with high ceilings, huge doors, and hanging skylights.

The collectorate is one of the last surviving signatures of Dutch architecture in the Bihar capital, especially the Record Room and the old District Engineer's Office.

The British-era structures in its complex include the DM Office Building and District Board Patna Building.

The iconic Patna Collectorate and Golghar were also used as observation stations during the Great Trigonometrical Survey, a landmark project of the 19th century that aimed to measure the entire Indian subcontinent with scientific precision, according to archival documents.

The Dutch came to India in the early 17th century with the establishment of the Dutch East India Company which traded in various cities like Surat, Patna, Chinsurah (Bengal), and Pulicat (Coromandel region of Tamil Nadu).

Patna was one of the major trading centres for opium and saltpetre and the Dutch built factories and godowns there on the banks of Ganga as the river played a major role in trade operation until the advent of railways in the 19th century.

In 2016, the public movement 'Save Historic Patna Collectorate' led by citizens from various walks of life was launched to save the historic landmark from demolition.

Some of the key scenes of the Oscar award-winning film 'Gandhi' were shot at Patna Collectorate in the 1980s.PTI MNL MNL

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