Disposing off a petition by the Maharana Pratap Bagh residents welfare association (RWA), the Delhi High Court had in November 2009 said: "All construction work to be carried out in terms of the proposal (lowering of the road) will be carried out by the MCD under the supervision of the ASI. A distance of at least three metres will be maintained between any proposed construction/excavation, so as to avoid any damage/danger to the monument in question."
When HT visited the site on Thursday, the machine was digging out earth near the monument. While soil below two of the three arches was pulled out, work was on for the third (central) arch.
The North Delhi Municipal Corporation is carrying out the work under the supervision of the ASI. "In clear violation of court orders, they are using JCB machine right up to the monument's wall. If the levelling is not aligned properly with the deep drainage system beside it, water logging below the monument will damage it," said Anil Chandi, RWA's general secretary.
While civic officials were unavailable for comments, ASI sources said they were getting reports of the work from the conservation assistant. "When we came to know that the foundation of the monument was exposed, we asked the digging near it to be stopped," said DN Dimri, ASI's Delhi circle chief.
Asked why despite the court order JCB machine was taken near the monument, Dimri said, "Civic officials informed us that it was manually impossible to remove layers of road and concrete below the arches."