What if UNESCO withdraws Taj’s world heritage site title, asks SC


New Delhi, July 26: Slamming both the Central and Uttar Pradesh government for the neglect of Taj Mahal, the Supreme Court on Thursday wondered what if Unesco was to drop the 17th century Mughal monument from its list of world heritage site.

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“It is a world heritage site. What will happen if Unesco say that we withdraw the world heritage title,” asked the bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta.

The court asked if the authorities concerned have filed the management plan for the protection and preservation of the heritage site.

“It is very very difficult to understand something that is happening. Something is said on affidavit, something is said orally and something otherwise. It is unacceptable,” Justice Lokur said pointing the variations in what was being said in the affidavit and what was being submitted orally before the court.

Coupled with this, the court also wanted to know which was the authority responsible for the protection and preservation of Taj as it found that the three affidavits filed before it by the Uttar Pradesh Tourism Department, the second by the Union Environment and Forest Ministry and third by some other authority.

As senior counsel A.D.N.Rao told the court that the Archaeological Survey of India was responsible for the Taj,the court expressed surprise that the it has been kept out of the consultation process for preparing the draft vision document for the protection and preservation of the Taj.

Ordering that a copy of the draft vision document be made available to the ASI and asking its to share it with INTACH, Agha Khan Foundation, ICOMS and other similar entities who have expertise in protecting and restoring the historic monuments, the court also directed the UP government to give a copy of the vision document to petitioner M.C.Mehta for his comments.

Sharing the court’s concern on the possibility of Unesco dropping Taj from the list of world heritage sites, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal told the the court that the task involving the preservation and protection of Taj and other adjoining monuments including Agra Fort, Fathepur Sikri and Sikkendra is massive and has to be carried by way of short term, medium and long term plan.

He told the court that short term plan itself would take two years to complete.

At the outset of the hearing, Justice Lokur took exception to Uttar Pradesh government filing the draft vision document asking if the state government expected the Court to “correct it.”

Told that the Taj Trapezium Authority was responsible for executing the larger plans fior the protection of heritage monument, Justice Lokur said had it been doing its job, things would not have come to such a pass.

“TTZ Authority is doing nothing. Zero. We would not have this problem if TTZA had been doing its work,” he said.

The court directed it be told “categorically and unequivocally” who is responsible for the TTZ.

“Whether it is Union of India, then which Ministry, if it is Uttar Pradesh government, then which Ministry,” said Justice Lokur, adding that “we are in a situation where left hand does not know what right is doing”.