SC raps ASI for failing to preserve Taj Mahal

SC raps ASI for failing to preserve Taj Mahal

Tourists walk in front of the historic Taj Mahal, Agra. REUTERS Photo

The Supreme Court on Wednesday came down heavily on the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) for its failure to take appropriate steps to protect and preserve the Taj Mahal.

The apex court also expressed concern over the historic monument 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 (ASG) ANS Nadkarni, who was appearing for the Centre.

The counsel for the ASI told the court that the problem of insects and algae was due to the stagnation of river Yamuna's water and this problem occurred after the monsoon.

When the ASI's counsel contended that algae on the monument were a cause of concern, the bench shot back asking, "Can algae fly and how can algae reach the top of the structure?"

The scathing remarks by the top court came after the bench perused recent photographs of the Taj Mahal and expressed concern over the monument being infested by insects and algae.

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 the Taj Mahal.

The top court has been monitoring developments in the area around the monument, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal in 1631, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It had on May 1 expressed concern over the changing colour of the Taj Mahal apparently due to pollution and rapped the government.

"You have to remove the ASI because they are saying they are doing an excellent job. ASI will have to be thrown out of the picture," the bench said.

ASG Tushar Mehta told the court that it was a matter of "failure" and the government was concerned over the situation at the Taj.

ASG Nadkarni also referred to the huge footfall at the mausoleum and said that tourists entered wearing "dirty socks".

The bench then asked whether ASI had examined why these insects were there and whether there was any spray which could prevent it.

The court also expressed surprise that its order on the Taj Mahal and closure of industrial units in Agra way back in 1996 was not yet implemented, rather the number of industries have grown in the area.

On the issue of appointing experts to look into the issue of protection and preservation of Taj Mahal, the bench said that in India, there were expert bodies like the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage and Aga Khan Trust for Culture which could deal with the problem.