ASI’s inaction

A few years ago the High Court directed the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) to take measures for declaring the Sadder Court complex situated at Lal Chowk an ancient monument. The Court had given three months time to the ASI to start the process. However, three years have passed and the ASI, it seems has forgotten the court orders. The complex housed the courts for several decades. Most of the buildings were declared unsafe but the 2014 deluge further weakened the buildings. A petition was filed by the Bar Association seeking declaratIon of the complex as an ancient monument. The petition was allowed and accordingly the directions were passed. Meanwhile, the courts were shifted first to Sanat Garh at Bemina and now to the new complex at Mominabad. The premises had reportedly been up for grabs, with the government said to have been keen to sell it off to a businessman for what else but to convert heritage into a hotel, or a shopping complex. In comments sought by the HC, its then Registrar General has described the Sadr Court buildings as having the history of the state's judicial institution "inscribed on every brick and stone", and having witnessed the evolution of Jammu and Kashmir's present judicial system. A sensational and legendary courtroom victory by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, on one of his Kashmir visits is among the many historic moments of the old High Court. According to the Registrar General, luminaries like Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, Khan Bahardur Mian Muhammad Shafi and Rai Bahadur Badri Dass, among many others, have argued their cases here, in the pre-partition era. It is understandable that the state's highest judicial authority should have ordered with consideration, care and sensitivity on an issue pertinent to its own past. This also kindles hopes of some of this sentiment seeping into the impervious political, bureaucratic and social mindsets governing matters in other spheres, particularly with aesthetic and environmental consequences. The concerned has to act fast. As mentioned above the buildings are fast deteriorating and it has to be prevented now.

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