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HC dismisses architect's plea to recreate Hall of Nations, Nehru Pavilion

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New Delhi, May 28 (PTI) An architect cannot restrain the owner of a building he has designed from demolishing it, the Delhi High Court ruled on Tuesday, while dismissing a plea for recreating the demolished Hall of Nations and the Nehru Pavilion at a separate location here. The ruling by the court came while dismissing a suit filed by the architect of the buildings, which were located at Pragati Maidan here and were demolished to re-develop the area, seeking directions to the Indian Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) to recreate them as compensation. Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw, in his verdict, said, "The special rights of the author of an architectural work cannot be interpreted as being a restriction on the right to property of the owner of the land and building and entitling the author to restrain the owner of the land and building, in which the architectural work has been expressed, from better utilising his land or building by removing the existing building and constructing a new building on the land." The court said artistic or architectural work "was not scarce and more can be produced", but not land. It said the requirements of urban planning "outweigh" the moral rights of an architect. "Similarly, technical reasons to modify the building, economic reasons justifying modifications to the building and the necessity to obtain an authorisation to build, all prevail over the moral rights. "The architect cannot demand the intangibility of work because it would violate the right of ownership and the principles of freedom of commerce. Similarly, functionality of the building has to necessarily outweigh the interest of the architect on the preservation of integrity. Thus, the owner of the building has full power to dispose it of and destroy it," the court said in its 32-page judgment. It said under the Copyright Act, the only right an architect had was an "embargo" on making his copyrighted work look like something other than what was created. "Just like the purchaser of a work of art, copyright wherein vests in the artist, is entitled not to display the same, so also the owner of a building, even if an acclaimed piece of architecture, cannot be restrained from demolishing the same and making a new building in its place," the court said. The judge, in conclusion, said, "I thus do not find any right in the plaintiff (Raj Rewal) as architect of the building/structure, to, under the Copyright Act, object to demolition of the work or to claim any damages for such demolition." Rewal had initially moved the high court in 2016 challenging the ITPO's decision to demolish the Nehru Pavilion and the Hall of Nations as part of the proposed redevelopment of the Pragati Maidan complex. The petition was dismissed in February, 2016. Thereafter, he had filed another petition seeking a declaration that the two buildings were works of art of national importance and therefore, they should be preserved. The plea was dismissed in April, 2017 by a single-judge bench of the high court on the ground that the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC) had not directed preservation of the buildings. Rewal had appealed to a division bench against the decision and while it was pending, the ITPO started demolishing the buildings in question and within a short span of time, reduced the said buildings to rubble. At the time of filing the appeal, Rewal had also filed a suit seeking directions to the ITPO to recreate the buildings at another prominent location under his supervision. PTI HMP RC

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