July 11, 2018:
On Wednesday, Supreme Court castigated Central and State Government on their “lethargy” and “apathy” in taking steps to protect Taj Mahal and stated that,”Restore pristine beauty of the Historic Taj Mahal or you can demolish it if you like.”
Supreme Court Bench comprising of Justice MB Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta made these observations, dubbing the issue of its preservation as a “hopeless cause”.
Apex Court stated that,”You (government) 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”.
SC Bench stated that,”Uttar Pradesh (government) is not bothered. No action plan or vision document has come yet. Either you demolish it (Taj) or you restore it”.
Apex Court has been monitoring development in area to protect Taj Mahal, built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal at Agra. Its construction was completed in 1643 but work continued on other phases of the project for another 10 years. The ivory white marble mausoleum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
SC Bench drew a parallel between Taj Mahal and Eiffel Tower of Paris and stated that the mausoleum was perhaps more beautiful, but India continued to lose tourists and foreign exchange due to the situation prevailing there.
Supreme Court stated that,”There is the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Perhaps it is nothing compared to Taj Mahal. 80 million people come there (Paris). This is eight times more than what we have. You can destroy the Taj, we don’t want to do it”.
Referring to Eiffel Tower, Bench said that in India, there were concerns about security, but in other countries, they have made towers like “TV towers” from where tourists can get a view of the entire city.
SC Bench added that,”We are obsessed with security. At every place (in foreign cities), you have towers to have a bird’s eye view of the city. But in India, you have security problems. There are no such towers to look at the city”.
When one of the Advocates stated vision document was being prepared, SC Bench took a jibe at him and stated that,”Will the vision document come after the Taj is demolished? Taj Mahal has to be protected or the Government of India has to decide if it has to be demolished”.
On being asked by Supreme Court about the number of tourists visiting India last year, Additional Solicitor General ANS Nadkarni, appearing for Centre, stated that the figure was about 10 million in 2017.
SC Bench was informed that soon, Online Booking System would start at Taj Mahal where Tourist would be able to book High-end Tickets.
One of the advocates also told Bench that soon there would be time restriction and time slot for the tourists visiting Taj.
ASG Nadkarni told the court that the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur was conducting an assessment of air pollution level in and around the mausoleum and Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) and they would give their report within four months.