SC to govt: Demolish Taj if you can't protect it

Court furious at delay in plan to shield monument from damage

By Our Legal Correspondent
  • Published 12.07.18
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Visitors at the Taj Mahal on Wednesday. (PTI)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday told the Centre to "demolish" or "shut down" the Taj Mahal if it was unable to ensure proper upkeep of the monument.

"You can shut down the Taj. You can demolish (it) if you like and you can also do away with it if you have already decided," a bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta told additional solicitor-general A.S. Nadkarni, appearing for the government.

The court lamented that neither the Centre through the Archaeological Survey of India nor the Uttar Pradesh government had taken proper steps to protect the Taj Mahal from environmental and other hazards.

"Uttar Pradesh is not bothered. There is no action plan or vision document. We want you to give us an action plan (on) what you propose to do. We will hear it and finally dispose it. If it has to be shut down let it be shut," Justice Lokur told Nadkarni, representing the environment and forest ministry.

The court is monitoring development in and around the Taj Mahal.

Environmentalist M.C. Mehta, on whose application the court has been monitoring the case, had alleged that large-scale unauthorised structures had come up in the Taj Trapezium Zone, which included several industries.

The trapezium zone is a 10,400sqkm stretch identified by the court around the monument where no industry or construction is allowed without its nod.

Nadkarni pleaded that pursuant to an earlier direction by the bench, the Centre had set up a committee to hire external experts to prepare a concrete action plan to protect the Taj Mahal.

"The Centre has taken a serious view of the matter. The committee will find out the exact source of pollution in and around the Taj. Three to four months are required for the report to be prepared," the government law officer said.

Justice Lokur was not impressed with the argument as he drew a parallel between the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal. He said the Eiffel Tower was not considered as beautiful as the Taj, yet it attracted millions of tourists.

"The Eiffel Tower gets 80 million visitors every year. This is eight times more than what the Taj Mahal attracts and it is more beautiful than the Eiffel Tower that looks like a TV tower," the bench observed.

"Will the vision document come after the Taj is demolished? The Taj Mahal has to be protected or the Government of India has to decide if it has to be demolished," Justice Lokur added.