New Delhi, July 11: The Supreme Court on Wednesday came down heavily on the Centre and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for not being able to protect the iconic Taj Mahal, asking to “shut it down” or “demolish or restore” the Mughal structure.
The apex court was unhappy as the Uttar Pradesh government failed to come out with a vision document to protect the Taj Mahal.
A bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak was upset with the authorities for not taking any step to preserve the Taj Mahal and said its “sheer lethargy” on the part of the authorities.
“There is absolutely no willingness to protect the Taj Mahal. Pristine beauty of Taj Mahal has to be protected. You can shut down the Taj Mahal it demolish it. Restore it if you want or demolish it if it has to be demolished,” said the bench.
The court said the Taj Mahal is more beautiful than the Eiffel Tower and could have solved the country’s foreign exchange problem.
“There is the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Perhaps it is nothing compared to Taj Mahal. Our Taj Mahal is more beautiful. 80 million go to watch Eiffel Tower which looks like a TV Tower. This is eight times more than what we have. If you had looked after it, your foreign exchange problem would have been solved.
“Do you realise the loss caused to the country due to your apathy?,” observed the bench.
The Uttar Pradesh government had earlier told the bench that it would place before the court a draft of vision document on protection and preservation of the Taj Mahal that was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.
Saying it would hear the case next on July 31 on a day-to-day basis, the bench told the Central government to furnish full details of the steps taken and action it intends to take for protecting the Taj Mahal along with time-frame and responsibility and accountability of the departments concerned.
During the hearing, the bench said that there was a report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, which dealt with the effects of pollution on Taj Mahal, but the authorities have not bothered to take appropriate steps on the issue.
The Central government submitted that the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur was conducting an assessment of air pollution level in and around the Taj Mahal and Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) and the report would be given within four months.
The court also sought personal appearance of the chairman of Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) — a 10,400 sq km area spread over the districts of Agra, Firozabad, Mathura, Hathras and Etah in Uttar Pradesh and Bharatpur in Rajasthan — to explain violation of its orders prohibiting expansion of industrial units in the zone.
The Uttar Pradesh government had said it was also trying to take care of the environment around the structure so that the historic monument could be there for another 400 years and not just for a generation.
The court has been hearing a plea filed by environmentalist M.C. Mehta seeking protection of the Taj from the ill-effects of polluting gases and deforestation in and around the area.