Taj Mahal must be protected or demolished: Supreme Court blasts government
The Supreme Court was harsh on both the central government and the government of Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday on what it saw as their apathy and lethargy in protecting the Taj Mahal, and said that because no one seemed to be doing anything to protect the monument, it would start hearing the matter every day from July 31.
“You can shut down Taj. You can demolish (it) if you like and you can also do away with it if you have already decided,” said a bench of Justice MB Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta.
Despite a Parliamentary Committee’s report on the effects of pollution on the monument, both the state and central governments had failed to take action, the court observed.
“Uttar Pradesh is not bothered. There is no action plan or vision document. We want you to give us an action plan as to what you propose to do. We will hear it and finally dispose (of) it. If it has to be shut down let it be shut,” the bench told additional solicitor general AS Nadkarni who appeared on behalf of the ministry of environment and forests.
Nadkarni told the court the Centre has set up a committee subsequent to the court’s advice during the last hearing on the hiring of experts. “The Centre has taken a serious view of the matter. The committee will find out exact source of pollution in and around Taj. Three to four months are required for the report to be prepared,” the ASG said.
The court wasn’t mollified and said it found the move “vague”. It also drew a parallel between the Taj Mahal and the Eiffel Tower of Paris to say that the mausoleum was perhaps more beautiful and yet did not attract many tourists.
“Eiffel Tower gets 80 million visitors every year. This is eight times more than what Taj Mahal attracts and it is more beautiful than Eiffel tower, which looks like a TV tower,” the judges said. “(But) due to (the) sheer apathy of the officials, this country is losing (out on) crucial foreign exchange,” the bench noted.
The top court has been monitoring developmental activities in and around the area to protect the Taj Mahal.
It ordered a moratorium on the expansion of industrial units in the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) that also includes cities such as Mathura and Vrindavan.
The bench also ordered the personal appearance of the chairman of the TTZ following allegations against the board that it was violating court orders.
According to an application filed by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Uttar Pradesh, the board (TTZ) was allowing companies to restart factories that had been closed two decades ago.
“This permission is granted against the moratorium,” SC noted in its order, fixing July 16 for the personal appearance of the chairman.
Nadkarni told the court that the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) is conducting an assessment of air pollution levels in and around the mausoleum and TTZ and would submit a report within four months.