The historic Darul Adalat bearing testimony to Mughal and colonial era architectural features in Chittagong wears down by the day while the government authorities have been grappling for the last one year to decide whether to preserve the centuries-old two-storey building. .Photo: Prabir Das
Preservation of the centuries-old Darul Adalat, the first court building of Chittagong, is now hanging in the balance as the authorities of Mohsin Government College, owner of the building, want to demolish it, while the Department of Archaeology wants to preserve it.
Over a year has passed since an expert of the DoA, Chittagong office sent a report to the department's headquarters in the capital suggesting that the building be preserved but the building has not yet been declared antiquity.
After an article regarding authorities of Mohsin Government College deciding to demolish the building was published in The Daily Star on March 19 last year, the DoA authorities took initiatives to preserve the two-storey building.
Director General of DoA Shirin Akhtar had directed the department's Deputy Director Md Amiruzzaman to submit a report to the DoA regarding whether the building, locally known as Portuguese Fort, should be preserved.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister's Office at the time also directed the DoA to take steps to preserve the building and requested a report from the Chittagong deputy commissioner in this regard. The then deputy commissioner Abdul Mannan opined that the Darul Adalat should be preserved.
On April 1 last year, Amiruzzaman sent the report suggesting the building be preserved under the Antiquity Act 1968 (amended 1976). Six months later on October 1, the then Chittagong deputy commissioner Abdul Mannan sent land documents related to the building.
Earlier, for a monument to be declared antiquity, an expert's opinion and land documents were all that were required. The DoA would take these into consideration and forward a proposal to the cultural ministry, and the ministry would take the final decision.
However, earlier this year, the ministry has asked for public opinions regarding whether the monument should be preserved or not before making a decision.
The domed stairwell with an opening to the roof. The photos were taken recently. . Photo: Prabir Das
The DoA on February 22 asked Mizanur Rahman, the department's Chittagong regional director, to submit a report after taking local's opinions.
Mizanur Rahman visited the site on April 5. Contacted late last month, Mizanur said he would take Mohsin College authorities' opinions and use those in his report.
He further said he needed about two months to complete the report.
A DoA official, preferring anonymity, said the college authorities had opted to demolish the building before and build a library in its place and if their opinions are reported then preserving the monument would be difficult.
The Darul Adalat was built by the British after they took control of the city back in 1761. The building stands on 0.775 acres of land on a hill on Mohsin College campus and bears both Mughal and Colonial architectural traits.
Talking to The Daily Star, locals, students of the college and antiquity experts said the building should be preserved, and also demanded that the building be given legal protection so that none can demolish it in future.