The Supreme Court’s decision on upholding Delhi high court’s order to measure the prohibited and regulated area for a Centrally protected monument from its outer boundary and not the structure is likely to affect several infrastructure projects in Delhi.
Scores of additional properties — especially in south Delhi — near Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) protected monuments will also fall within the prohibited area (100 metres) and the regulated area (101-300 metres).
Following an amendment in the archaeological act in 2010, no fresh construction was allowed within 100 metres of a protected monument.
Delhi has a whopping 174 such monuments. Several monuments have a boundary wall while many do not.
“Earlier it was as per the measurement from the notified area. These were often up to the footprint of the monuments. But the implication of the Supreme Court ruling is that now the measurement has to be taken from the boundary of the monument, which could be much further away from the monument,” said AGK Menon, Delhi head, Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage.
For instance, the Red Fort station of the proposed Delhi Metro Rail Corporation’s line in phase 3, is beyond 100 metres of the Red Fort monument — a World Heritage Site.Now, however, when the distance is counted from the boundary wall, it will be less than 50 metres.
ASI officials said that whatever the Supreme Court said was binding on all.
“We would go through the judgment. (But) wherever there are no boundary walls, we would have to go by what the notification for that monument says,” said Dr BR Mani, ASI’s competent authority for ensuring monument-specific heritage bye-laws as per the 2010 amendment.
The reactions are divided — development proponents are going to be cautious while heritage lovers happy.
“The Supreme Court has upheld the law in the way it was meant to be. It ought to be welcomed. Courts have proved to be guardians of monuments,” said Nayanjot Lahiri, archaeological historian, who was upbeat that there is no ambiguity on the 100 metres debate anymore.
Prof Satish Khanna, urban planner and also a member of the Delhi Urban Art Commission said, “We don’t have any choice (as) it is a Supreme Court decision. One has to accept it. But I hope the heritage bye-laws have to be rationalised for each monument, seeing the ground realities.”