The Supreme Court on Thursday pulled up the Uttar Pradesh government for its failure in preserving the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Taj Mahal.
The apex court asked the Uttar Pradesh government, "Who is exactly the in-charge of the Taj Mahal?" In its observation, the court further said, "the left-hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. It is surprising. Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) authority has done nothing since it was set up in 1996."
The top court also came down heavily on the state government for filing a draft of the vision document with respect to the Taj Mahal trapezium. The court asked, "Why have you filed a draft? Are we supposed to correct it?"
The court division bench headed by Justice Madan Bhimrao asked the government about the in-charge of the environment protection and redevelopment of the area.
Justice Bhimrao said, "First environment ministry files affidavit, then ASI, then the Uttar Pradesh government. What is happening?"
While observing that nobody wants to take responsibility for the world heritage site, Justice Lokur said, "Someone has to take responsibility. There has to be one authority which takes charge. It seems that authorities have washed their hands off the Taj."
"We are now in a situation where a vision document is prepared without the involvement of the ASI," he added.
Meanwhile, Attorney General KK Venugopal, who appeared in the court on behalf of the Uttar Pradesh government, submitted his report to the top court that the ASI was not responsible for the relocation of industries in the Taj trapezium zone.
The Attorney General added, "Yellowing of the Taj was prevented and after chemical treatment, it was made white again. But now, Taj is decaying again. UNESCO is thinking about declassifying the Darjeeling railway from the list of Heritage sites. It will be a huge embarrassment for the country if Taj is also removed."
The apex court questioned the state government about short-term measures that they plan to implement, since a detailed plan would take months
During the argument, TTZ Commissioner told the two-judge bench that the Taj TTZ authority has no staff. The commissioner said, "We have written to the Uttar Pradesh government 20 to 25 letters in the last three years. I have written four letters in the last one year."
Reacting to this statement, the Supreme Court strongly observed, "What is this? This has become a joke."
On July 24, the Uttar Pradesh government submitted its draft vision document to the Supreme Court on the restoration of Taj Mahal and assured the court of steps to preserve the heritage structure.
The proposed draft vision envisages declaring an entire area near Taj Mahal a plastic-free zone including the ban on bottled water, impose a complete ban on construction activities on the riverbed of the Yamuna and have better traffic management with more space for pedestrians.
The state government also said that it would soon develop a design to rehabilitate and relocate slums near the Taj Mahal and added that no permission would be given for construction in the reserved forest areas.
Built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal in Agra, the iconic Taj Mahal was completed in 1643. The work continued for another decade to complete other phases. This Mughal mausoleum is now in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.