Criticising the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the Delhi High Court on Friday declared “illegal” an experts committee formed to allow constructions within the prohibited limits of protected monuments across the country.
The ASI has been restrained from giving any further permission for construction or renovation within 100 metres of any monument.
It has also been asked to take steps within a month to reconsider all permissions granted by the committee since its formation in July 2006 and take steps after giving the parties a hearing.
The six-member panel, headed by the ASI director general and comprising eminent historians and town planners, had over 400 applications from across the country.
Out of the 150 requests from Delhi, sanction has been given in 116 cases.
“The committee has been set up without any legal basis…entire exercise being undertaken by them is without authority of law. The ASI, entrusted with the statutory responsibility of ensuring preservation of monuments, is, in fact, facilitating violation of the 1992 notification which prohibits construction within 100 metres,” said Chief Justice A.P. Shah and Justice S Muralidhar.
Construction by a private builder within 88 metres of the Humayun’s Tomb in Nizamuddin has been stayed.
The court upheld contention of Supreme Court lawyer Gaurang Kanth, who brought the illegality to attention of the court, that the ASI had no right to form the committee when they had challenged in the Supreme Court a direction by the Delhi High Court in 2004 to the Centre to reconsider limits around monuments and obtained an interim stay.
“The least ASI should have done is to await the outcome of their appeal,” said the Bench.
Interestingly, the court asked the Centre to issue show cause notice to Kanth also as to why action cannot be taken against his property situated adjacent to the disputed property near Humayun's Tomb and was within the prohibited limits.
Kanth has already filed an affidavit in the court saying that if his property was illegal, the ASI could demolish it.