Thanks to a legal tangle between a school and the trust that houses the school, the fate of over 300 students hangs in balance. While the trust wants the school authorities to vacate the premises, the authorities say they need a suitable place nearby where they could shift.
As the case goes, Thaker High School runs from the top floor of a building owned by Revabai Bhaishanker Solicitor Hindu Dharmashala Trust, opposite VS Hospital on Ashram Road. The school was set up by a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, Narmada Shankar Thaker, in 1932 for promotion of education among the masses.
The two-storied building was constructed by Revabai Bhaishanker Solicitor Hindu Dharmashala Trust to provide accommodation to the relatives of patients admitted at VS Hospital. In 1937, a part of the building was given to the administrators of Thaker High School on monthly rent basis. Now, the school pays Rs225 a month as rent to the trust.
Affiliated to Gujarat Board, the school provides education to more 300 students from std VIII to std XII. Most of the students are from poor families, said Sonaben Thaker, principal, adding that it was functioning smoothly till the devastating earthquake of January 26, 2001. Soon after the quake, the AMC issued a notice to Dharmashala Trust under section 264 of BMC Act to get the building repaired.
After the AMC served the notice, the trust asked the school to vacate the premises. But when the school did not agree, the matter reached Small Cause Court which ordered the school authorities to cooperate with the trust for an amicable settlement of the issue.
Trust advocate Dakshesh Mehta said: “As per the report of the structural engineer of the AMC, the building was to be demolished.” Moreover, the trust had also told the school that it had stopped giving rooms on rent to the relatives of patients so they needed the entire building.
Later, the matter reached Gujarat High Court as the two parties could not reach any agreement. Justice Ravi R Tripathi in his latest order has directed that the petition filed by the trust will be heard by a division bench headed by Chief Justice KS Radhakrishnan on August 27.
School trustees say the trust wants them to vacate the school as the building is located on a prime location and its current value is crores of rupees. “After they received notice from AMC, two engineers — Anandji Wala and Ravi Mishra — inspected the building and certified that the building was okay. Besides, AMC also ordered the school to function,” says MN Thaker, a trustee of Thaker High School.
Thaker also said that they are ready to shift the school provided the Dharmashala trust gives them a suitable place with an area equal to the present size at a location not too far from present one. He alleged that most of the present members of Dharmashala trust are big shots and they wanted to occupy the land as it is worth crores of rupees.
Former principal, Arunbhai Thaker, said the trust wanted them to vacate the building by citing problems in structural standard but “there are many buildings in the city whose structural standards are worse than that of this building”.
He said in the 2001 earthquake, the school building had suffered minor damages as it was built by British construction company, Gammon Dunkeley.