New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said
it will wait for an amicus curiae report to decide on the
issue of allowing felling of over 5,000 trees in the vicinity
of Taj Mahal for Uttar Pradesh government`s Yamuna Expressway
road project connecting Delhi with Agra.
The apex court said it was not in a position at this
stage to pass any directions as it was not aware that any
order prohibiting felling of trees was earlier passed by it or
not in the eco-sensitive zone near the Taj Mahal, also called
Taj Trapazium Zone (TTZ).
A Bench, comprising Justices D K Jain and H L Dattu,
asked advocate Krishan Mahajan, who is assisting the court as
an amicus curiae in the matter, to go through various orders
passed by the court to find out if any order prohibiting
cutting of trees in the TTZ area exists or not.
The apex court has been monitoring since 1990s clearance
to projects in TTZ area.
Mahajan said he can make survey of the area only after he
was provided with the map of the area where trees are to be
The Bench asked the developer of the project and the
authorities that the trees which are required to be cut should
be numbered and marked by them so that the amicus can make
survey of the area along with the members of the apex-court
appointed Central Empowered Committee.
The court said the requisite exercise and the report
in this regard has to be completed within four weeks.
Uttar Pradesh government`s Yamuna Expressway Authority
and the contractor of the project Jaypee Infratech Ltd have
approached the apex court seeking its nod for going ahead with
Senior advoacte Ashok Desai, appearing for the developer,
said there was no order requiring the court`s prior permission
for cutting the trees but the Conservator of Forest asked the
company to get clearance from the CEC, which prompted it to
approach the apex court.
The Bench said even if there was no order with regard to
cutting of trees, it still has the jurisdiction to go into the
issue as it was concerned with the eco-fragile zone.
"We know the sanctity of the area," the Bench said.
Advocate M C Mehta, on whose petition since the court has
been monitoring environment aspect around the Taj area, said
whenever such a situation has arisen, there had been a
direction for cutting minimum number of trees.
The authority and the contractor have moved an
application seeking permission for felling of over 5,000 trees
for widening of road from Agra airport to the Taj Mahal.
Mahajan, during the earlier hearing, had said that before
allowing the cutting of trees, the court has to take into
account that there are five Mughal era monuments in the area.
There have been allegations from various quarters that
trees in and around the Taj Mahal had been felled by the state
government for constructing an expressway from Agra Airport to
The state government had earlier denied the charge and
sought permission for felling the trees on the plea that the
necessary environmental impact assessment had been done and an
expert committee of the state had stated that there would be
no threat to the monument or its environment.
The apex court is monitoring the alleged threat posed to
the Taj Mahal on account of encroachments and various
construction activities around the 17th century monument.
Mahajan had in 2008 submitted a report which alleged that
over 2,332 trees had been illegally felled around the Taj
Mahal by the authorities, thus rendering the white marbled
monument vulnerable to environmental hazards.
The six-lane Yamuna Expressway, earlier called Taj
Expressway, which can be extended to eight lanes, passes along
River Yamuna measuring 165.5km and covers nearly 334 villages
of Gautam Budh Nagar, Bulandshahar, Aligarh, Mahamaya Nagar
(Hathras), Mathura and Agra districts of UP.