Saturday, June 05, 2010

Karnataka high court okays National War Memorial in Karnataka

Karnataka high court okays National War Memorial in Karnataka

Odeal D'Souza / DNASaturday, June 5, 2010 11:13 IST



A division bench of justices Manjula Chellur and Mohan Shanthangoudar, dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the memorial’s construction, saying a National War Memorial was a laudable initiative, since it would instil patriotism in the hearts of the country’s citizens. Those against the memorial at the park said they would challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court (see box).

The PIL, filed by Krishna Apartment Welfare Association, a resident welfare association and non-profit organisation, wanted the HC to restrain the Bangalore Development Authority and the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) from constructing a hall, to be called the National Military Memorial, at the park. It contended that the memorial would alter the landscape of the park, since trees would have to be felled.

The petitioners contended that information obtained by them from the BDA and BBMP through the Right to Information Act indicated that the proposed structure would cover an area of 1,000 sq mt and that 31 trees, including 14 Nilgiris and three Ashokas, besides a few eucalyptus trees, would be cut for the memorial.

The petitioners also told the court that the government had framed a policy not to allow any building within the park. In fact, on November 14, 1979, the government had not allowed even Bal Bhavan authorities to put up a temporary structure, citing the policy.

The petitioners had contended that the area covered by the park was formerly used by Electronics Research and Development Establishment (LRDE), a defence establishment, and it worked from temporary structures till 1998. The structures were removed and the park was created at the spot by retaining the old trees and planting fresh saplings. A musical fountain was also constructed at the park, they said.

But, dismissing the PIL, the court said that the proposed war memorial would not only make people curious to know what it contained, but also inspire Kannadigas to work for the betterment of the country. The proposed project was not meant to be an amusement park for the public and it would not create any inconvenience for those using the park, the court said.

The structure would be under the National Military Memorial Trust, headed by the chief minister. Since the chief minister himself would be in charge of the administration and maintenance of the structure, there was no reason for the petitioners to be worried about the park losing its appeal.

The project would be a pride of Karnataka. None of the objectives of the trust posed any kind of danger to society, the court said.
During the hearing, the BDA had submitted to the court that the memorial would have a park, museum and a symbolic stone in memory of the martyrs. It said Rs15 crore had been allocated for the project.

The land was handed over to the BDA by the home department, which got the land from the Public Works Department (PWD) in 2009. The BDA said it was trying to create a park and a playground in the same area.

The National Military Memorial Trust, which was formed on February 28, 2009, had also filed a statement saying it proposed to have a sixty-foot monolithic stone at the motivation hall with names of martyrs etched on it. The hall would also have the national flag. There would be a bandstand of the army, air force, navy, and war materials would be exhibited in the hall. There would also be a 120-foot flag pole. The monolithic stone would have writings in Kannada and English, explaining the sacrifices made by Indian soldiers during wars.

The petitioners’ advocate, Thiruvengatam, had submitted that the memorial would be in contravention of the Parks Act. It would affect ecology and restrict movement of people in the park. The park would be without adequate lung space if seven acres were to be taken away for the memorial, he had said. Thiruvengatam had also said if the memorial became a reality, its sanctity would have to be maintained. But there was no guarantee that the sanctity would be protected against mischief by public.

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