KOCHI: The wooden panelling and winding staircases of the building, replete with the evidence of a gallery, beckons one to a world steeped in royalty. The hall in question is the erstwhile Cochin State Legislative Assembly Hall of the Cochin Legislative Council. The foundation stone was set in 1912 and it was inaugurated in 1928. The legislative hall became part of the Government Law College in 1949, also known as His Highness Maharaja’s Law College. The assembly hall is one among the rarest monuments from the former Cochin Kingdom.
However, the building is in a dilapidated state and is in need of restoration and preservation. “Restoration is what needs to be done, not renovation. In 2007, around Rs 65 lakh was allotted for this cause. The vitrified tiles were paved using the amount,” said Girishanker, assistant professor, Government Law College, who has been showcasing the monumental importance of the building. The professor also hinted at the negligence by the college authorities in ensuring everyday care to the building. “Since an educational institution is being run in the building, it is extremely difficult to synchronise the students, staff and others to an integrated system that can work towards its restoration,” he said.
In 2015, during the tenure of the UDF government when the then chief minister Oommen Chandy had arrived to inaugurate the ladies hostel, he was persuaded to restore the structure. An amount of Rs one crore was sanctioned for the project. “The then PWD minister, Ebrahim Kunju was approached with the proposal and he had convened a meeting with the chief engineer and other affiliated groups,” says Girishanker. Nevertheless, like other projects, the proposal came to nothing.
On examination, Girishanker found that the 90-year-old building hasn’t been elevated to an archaeological status which could also explain the state’s lethargy and lack of accountability towards the proposal. “If the government takes the necessary steps to declare it as an architectural monument, funds can be earned from the central government, and restoration can be carried out at a faster pace,” he said. “The delay could also be due to the lack of coordination among the various PWD wings.”
However, on further enquiry, the reason seems to be different. “The proposal has been sent but we cannot take it up unless we receive an administrative sanction. And funds must be allotted by the government. As it is a heritage building, consultation with various wings is crucial for restoration,” said Regina Beevi, executive engineer, PWD Buildings Division.