ASI panel’s fate in limbo | delhi | Hindustan Times
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ASI panel’s fate in limbo

Delhi High Court has initiated steps to decide the validity of a committee, formed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which is allowing constructions close to centrally protected monuments, reports Harish V Nair.

delhi Updated: Oct 29, 2009 01:39 IST
Harish V. Nair

Delhi High Court has initiated steps to decide the validity of a committee, formed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which is allowing constructions close to centrally protected monuments.

The six-member panel headed by ASI’s director-general and comprising eminent urban planners and historians, examines all proposals where a relaxation of the rule prohibiting construction within 100 metres is asked for and decides on a case-to-case basis.

Though the exact number of sanctions given so far is not known, as per RTI details on its website, it has allowed nearly 100 constructions between March 2008 and May 2009.

A bench of Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah and Justice S Muralidhar has directed the ASI to place before it on Thursday all original records regarding constitution of the committee and details of the number of permissions granted by them so far.

The order came in a case, filed by Supreme Court lawyer Gaurang Kanth, that challenged the committee’s permission to a private builder to construct within 88 metres of Humayun’s Tomb, a world heritage site, in Nizamuddin East. The builder had moved the division bench against a single-bench order staying constructions.

“By allowing constructions in the prohibited area, the ASI has violated the very object of its creation that is preservation of ancient monuments,” the petition said.

Kanth produced documents in court showing that the high court had in July 2004, while dealing with a suit seeking permission to construct within the prohibited limits of Jantar Mantar, asked the ASI to consider a mechanism where the 100-metre prohibition is relaxed on a case-to-case basis. But the ASI had then rushed to Supreme Court against the order and obtained a stay. The apex court said: “The portion of the high court order directing the government to reconsider limits around ancient monuments is stayed.”

Kanth argued in the court that in this situation, the ASI had no right to form a committee through an internal notification without the approval of Parliament, which passed the original notification in 1992 strictly banning constructions within 100 metres.

Documents in possession of HT show that the ASI had relied on the same high court judgment of 2004, which they had challenged in the apex court, to form the committee to reconsider limits around monuments.