Even as unauthorised construction goes on unabated near protected monuments, the agencies - including the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) - that are supposed to prevent it indulge in passing the buck, resulting in no action against the guilty.
The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2010, bans any construction within 100 metres of a protected monument and provides for stringent punishment by way of a jail term or monetary fine for violators, including the officials who fail to prevent such violations. But since March 2010, when the amendment was effected, there has not been a single case of stringent punishment.In case of unauthorised constructions, ASI claims that it files a complaint with the police and informs the MCD (or the civic agency) for demolition action. MCD should then take action with the help of local police. But despite filing approximately 1,200 complaints across the city, there is no visible action on the ground.
So, who will file the case in such matters? Dr BR Mani, ASI spokesperson, said, "The ASI can itself file a case in the court and it has been doing so. But any action against unauthorised construction cannot take place without the local administration. The responsibility lies with the MCD and police."
Deep Mathur, MCD's director (press and information), says, "We are committed to ensure that no unauthorised construction takes place around ASI protected monuments. This calls for close coordination among the law enforcement agencies, MCD and ASI."
When HT cited locations of two specific examples and asked what action the MCD had taken against the unauthorised constructions that had come up after the 2010 amendment, Mathur said, "In both cases, we suspended action after police advised us considering the law and order situation."
Police, which just accompanies the civic agency during demolition action, considers unauthorised construction within 100 metres of a protected monument as a non-cognisable offence. Said Dharmendra Kumar, special commissioner of police (law and order), "...police cannot take action against such constructions on their own. We have advised ASI to go to court."
Gaurang Kant, the lawyer whose case in Delhi high court prompted the 2010 amendment, said, "It is a violation of the ASI act, so the responsibility rests with the ASI."