Finally, doubts over whether occupancy certificate (OC) would be issued for the 17-storey Prestige-Khoday Tower, opposite the Raj Bhavan, have come to rest. The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has issued occupancy rights to the real estate giant, Prestige Group, after a long wait of 2.8 years, on Saturday.
The high-rise was in the news ever since construction activity commenced in 2009. The construction was completed in February 2014, and after a long-drawn battle with the BBMP and the state home department over serious security issues — as the building overlooked Raj Bhavan — the Prestige Group was able to get permission to occupy the building, which was lying idle next to Hotel Capitol, in the heart of the city.
BBMP commissioner N Manjunatha Prasad told media: “The OC has been issued after it was found that they had complied with all specific security measures as instructed by the city police commissioner. The police commissioner had asked the Prestige Group to close down the windows from the fifth floor upwards, and to install several CCTV cameras, besides providing a floor (for setting up a control room) to the police department.”
Prasad said the police department inspected the premises and found all requirements, as suggested by the police, to have been complied with. “They recommended for the OC. The file came to me and I directed the special commissioner (projects) and additional director (town planning) to carry out field inspection and submit a report. After it was found satisfactory, the OC was issued,” he said.
In November 2014, the home department and the intelligence wing had recommended installation of bulletproof glass and view cutters to prevent occupants from getting a line-of-sight into Raj Bhavan premises. They also recommended a 12-foot-high concrete wall on the terrace of the high-rise building besides installation of several CCTV cameras with connectivity to the office of the police commissioner for monitoring.
But later, the police department retracted from those recommendations, instead directing Prestige Group to seal all the windows using concrete from the fifth floor upwards.
“The builder was asked to completely block the view towards Raj Bhavan with the concrete structure. Due to security reasons, we had asked them not to provide any kind of windows which could allow anyone a view into the Raj Bhavan premises from there,” said a police official who was part of the recommendation committee.
A source from Prestige Group said all the norms, as asked by the police department, had been met. “We have installed around 13 CCTV cameras all over the stretch on Raj Bhavan road till Basaveshwara Circle (Chalukya Circle). The recordings of these cameras are monitored on the top floor of Prestige-Khoday Tower where a police control room has been set up. The same can also be monitored from the control room in the premises of the office of the police commissioner on Infantry Road,” he said.
WHY WAS IT DELAYED?
This 17-storey building on the Raj Bhavan Road was treated as a threat to VVIPs. Raj Bhavan is the residence of the governor, where VIPs with Z-category security often visit. Besides, Raj Bhavan also reserves a suite for the President of India, whenever he visits.
Raj Bhavan itself falls under the special security zone (SSZ). The joint director of town planning, BBMP (north) had approved the Prestige-Khoday Tower in March 2009. Much earlier, in 2006, no-objection certificates (NOCs) for the project had been issued by the fire department, Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (Bescom), Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the Bangalore Water Supply & Sewerage Board (BWSSB).
Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) had initially refused to give its consent for the establishment in May 2007, but changed its mind in September 2008.
Following the 2005 terror attack on the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), the state government formulated SSZs in the city to cope better in case of similar crises. As per that, Raj Bhavan, Vidhana Soudha and the High Court of Karnataka are considered key SSZs.
In 2008, the then governor Rameshwar Thakur had requested — at the behest of the Special Protection Group which guards the VIPs — that a roof-top restaurant on the fifth floor of Hotel Capitol (adjacent to where Prestige-Khoday Tower stands now) be closed down as it could pose a security threat. The rooftop restaurant was promptly closed down by the Bangalore Police.
When the UB City tower came up on Vittal Mallya Road, a case was filed against it in the court, citing security concerns for the SSZ. The matter was settled in favour of UB City on the basis of a technicality.
HISTORY OF THE SITE
The land on which Prestige-Khoday Tower stands today, originally belonged to Maryam Begum, who is now a Pakistani national. Irfan Razack, chairman and managing director, Prestige Group, had said the construction of the tower was undertaken after getting proper clearances and NOCs.
The property was originally owned by Humayun Mirza, which was passed on to his daughter after his death. Later she moved to Pakistan. She sold the property to Khoday Eshwarappa & Sons. Prestige Group entered into a joint development agreement with the Khodays to take up the project. The Prestige Khoday Tower is developed for commercial space with a total built-up area of 1,60,927 square feet.
Credits Bangalore Mirror