The Punjab and Haryana high court has granted the Punjab government a month's time to decide if it was ready to use the 120-year-old Maharaja Ranjit Singh Fort, housing the Punjab Police Academy, at Phillaur while at the same time allow Archaelogical Survey of India (ASI) to take up the conservation of the monument.
The high court's directive came during the resumed hearing of a petition filed by the Punjab government. ASI had through a notification issued on September 7 last year declared the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Fort a monument of national importance and had written to the Punjab state director general of police requesting him to hand over the fort to the ASI as it wanted to start the conservation work soon. The state, however, filed an application in the high court.
Appearing for the centre government, senior standing counsel Sukhdeep Singh Sandhu apprised the bench that ASI had given the Punjab government an option of using the fort without raising any further construction and modification, while the ASI would maintain the fort. But the state government was not agreeing to it, he said.
On this, the division bench comprising acting chief justice Jasbir Singh and justice Rakesh Kumar Jain questioned the state government's counsel as to what problem was there when the police academy had been given an option to use the fort.
The state police, however, had mentioned that they had been using the fort since 1891 and it housed the state's premier police academy. It was submitted that if it was declared as a national monument it would not only hamper the training process but would be compromise security, too.
During the hearing of the case, when the bench was about to dismiss the petition filed by the Punjab government, the state counsel sought some time to take instructions from the appropriate level in the case.
Earlier, the ASI had informed the court that the idea to shift the Punjab Police Academy out of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Fort came after it was declared as heritage site in 2002. The case will now come up for hearing on August 21.