SC ‘surprised’ by UP’s draft for ‘Taj’ without consulting ASI

New Delhi: Wondering the careless approach of Centre and UP government in submitting a draft vision document on protecting the world heritage ‘Taj Mahal’ without consulting the Archeology Department of India, the Supreme Court questioned who is responsible for maintaining ‘Taj’.

The bench comprising of Justices Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta on Thursday was ‘surprised’ to find the report did not come from the responsible department for maintaining Taj but was a draft brought in by UP government without consulting the Archeology department of India, Indian express reported.

The bench questioned what will happen if the UNESCO withdraws its world heritage tag from India.

“First the environment ministry files an affidavit, then ASI and then Uttar Pradesh government. What is happening?” Justice Lokur asked on receiving the draft which was drawn up by the Delhi-based School of Planning and Architecture (SPA).

After going through the draft, the bench asked the state government counsel: “Why have you given a draft plan? Are we supposed to vet it for you? Is it our job to vet it?” adding “the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing”.

Responding to the bench Additional solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the state, said: “The attempt is to show our bonafide. Now, there will be consultations on it and within a period stipulated by the court, the final report will be prepared.”

Justice Lokur then said, “Someone has to take responsibility. There has to be one authority which takes charge. It seems that authorities have washed their hands of the Taj. We are now in a situation where a vision document is prepared without ASI’s involvement.”

Turning to Attorney General K K Venugopal, on world heritage tag, the asked: “Have you been filing management plan (of Taj Mahal) before the world heritage centre of UNESCO? This is not being filed. What will happen if the UNESCO says that we will withdraw the world heritage tag of Taj Mahal.”

To that Venugopal replied it will “be great, great embarrassment for the country” and “we cannot afford to get it removed from UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites”.

The Taj Tarpezium Zone (TTZ) is given no importance which is an area of about 10,400 sq km spread across various districts encircling Taj in UP and Rajasthan, where polluting industries are not allowed to operate as per the Apex Court’s orders.

But now the Bench wondered how there was no action against these polluting industries despite their order.

On that Venugopal said that the ASI does not have the authority to relocate industries in the TTZ.

The Bench then directed the state government to forward their draft report to conversation experts including INTACH and ASI for their further comments on the same while asking the Centre and the state to identify the departments responsible to maintain TTZ and monitor the developments in the area.

The court is scheduled to hear the issue on polluting industries operating in the TTZ on July 31.