Thursday, April 16, 2009

Indian Architecture Council in nominee war

Mumbai The Council of Architecture, a regulatory body constituted by the Centre, is facing allegations of arbitrary functioning and keeping the government out of the loop.

Over the last few months, the COA has rejected the re-nomination of several state government nominees, including Maharashtra’s, besides the central government nominee, on one ground or the other.

All architects in the country have to be registered with the COA, which regulates their professional practice and sets standards for the 135 architectural institutions in India. The COA comprises elected and nominated representatives including a central government nominee, an architect nominated by each state, five representatives from the Indian Institute of Architects, and five from architectural institutions, among others.

A nominee is eligible for re-nomination up to three consecutive terms. The COA recently rejected the re-nomination of many existing members including Chief Architects of the states of Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Karnataka, as well as the Union Territories of Puducherry and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The latest to be shown the door was the central government nominee from the Human Resource Development Ministry. It is this ministry that constituted statutory COA under the Architects Act, 1972

In a letter, the ministry pointed out that its member is not being invited to meetings, the agenda is not being sent to him, and the minutes not being made available. Terming it an “an attempt to block the central government role,” the letter states, “All of a sudden, the COA is now questioning the legitimacy of this ministry. It gives an apprehension... that there may be a hidden agenda for this about turn.”

Maharashtra’s chief architect Bipin Sankhe said, “The Maharashtra government has written to the council twice. The council insists a new member be nominated stating there has been a break in my term though I attended meetings even after my first term ended.”

A senior member from another state, who did not wish to be named, said the council’s arbitrary handling of finances had affected the professional set-up and the architectural institutes. “I have completed only two terms and my state government has written to them thrice but they have not called me for any meeting for almost a year,” the member said. COA president Vijay Sohoni refused to comment beyond “if the nominations are as per the Act they would be accepted.”

COA registrar Vinod Kumar said, “We have asked the HRD Ministry to produce any copy of the order of the President of India which states the ministry is in charge of the council.”

COA was in news recently after it barred Mumbai-based architect Hafeez Contractor from practising for a year. Contractor was charged with violating norms by featuring in an advertisement that spoke about his work.