It couldn't get more ironical for the Delhi High Court. The Supreme Court has upheld its 2006 order on 100m prohibited area around ASI-protected monuments, a move that is likely to cause problems for its proposed expansion plans.
The apex court has upheld that the distance of 100 metres (prohibited area of 0-100 metres) has to be measured from the outer boundary wall of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)-protected monuments and not from the physical structure.
Located on the Sher Shah Suri Marg, the court complex lies next to the 16th century Sher Shah Gate and Khair-ul-Manazil. Both monuments are ASI-protected.
The Delhi High Court is preparing an expansion plan, which include additional courtrooms, judges' chambers and also chambers for lawyers in buildings taller than existing ones.
In November, the high court had directed the authorities concerned to prepare heritage byelaws for these monuments for new construction in the regulated area (101-300 metres from the protected monument). The Archaeological Act does not permit any new construction within the prohibited area.
At a meeting earlier this week, high court chief justice and five other judges had reviewed the process. Representatives of the High Court Bar Association (HCBA), Delhi Urban Arts Commission (DUAC), ASI, Air Force and conservation experts and urban planners had attended the meeting.
Sources said, the official from Air Force operations unit had objected to the height, stating it can hinder an aircraft's flight path while flying over the India Gate during Republic Day parade. A site inspection was also carried out.
But even before heritage byelaws could be finalised, came the Supreme Court ruling. If the measurement (0-100 metres) has to start from the boundary wall of the monuments, a majority of the high court complex will come under the prohibited area.
But the court authorities are not exactly in agreement with the order. AS Chandiok, HCBA president, said, "The intent of the Supreme Court and the (archaeological) Act is to safeguard monument. Therefore, the 100 metres start from the monument."
"(But) the interpretation of the apex court's ruling has to be clarified by the authorities - either ASI or the National Monument Authority (NMA). Only then can heritage byelaws be finalised," said AGK Menon from the Indian National
Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), a body taken on board by the ASI for preparation of heritage byelaws.
It is the NMA, which will ultimately ratify the monument-specific heritage byelaws. "Wherever there is a boundary wall, measurement will start from that point and not from the monument, which can be somewhere inside," said Pravin Shrivastava, NMA member secretary.
It now remains to be seen as to how the high court authorities and the NMA interpret the Supreme Court ruling.