New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday came down heavily on the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) – the governing body of protected sites in the country – for its failure to take appropriate steps to protect and preserve the iconic Taj Mahal.
The apex court also expressed concern over Taj Mahal being infected by insects and asked the authorities, including the ASI, what steps they have taken to prevent this.
“This situation would not have arisen if the ASI would have done its job. We are surprised with the way the ASI is defending itself. You (Centre) please consider if the ASI is needed there or not,” a bench of Justices M.B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta told additional solicitor general A.N.S. Nadkarni, who was appearing for the Centre.
Meanwhile, Nadkarni told the bench that the Ministry of Environment and Forests was considering the apex court’s suggestion to appoint international experts to look into the issue of protection and preservation of Taj Mahal.
The counsel for ASI told the court that the problem of insects was due to stagnation of water from the Yamuna river
In March, the apex court had asked the government of Uttar Pradesh to place before it a draft of vision document on protection and preservation of the Taj and the environment in the Taj Trapezium Zone, which is an area of about 10,400 square kilometres spread over the districts of Agra, Firozabad, Mathura, Hathras and Etah in Uttar Pradesh and Bharatpur in neighbouring Rajasthan state.
The top court has been monitoring developments in the area to protect the monument, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal in 1631. The mausoleum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Supreme Court’s reprimand acquires special significance in light of the central government’s announcement on May 24 to ‘hand over’ Red Fort to Dalmia Bharat Limited. Opposition to the centre’s proposal has been growing even though the tourism ministry has clarified that the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Dalmia was limited to maintaining the Red Fort for five years.
(With inputs from PTI)