File policy on preservation of Taj Mahal: Supreme Court to Uttar Pradesh government

The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Uttar Pradesh government to file a comprehensive policy with regard to pollution in Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) and nearby areas and on preservation of the iconic Taj Mahal.

PTI| Updated: Nov 15, 2017, 18:04 PM IST

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Uttar Pradesh government to file a comprehensive policy with regard to pollution in Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) and nearby areas and on preservation of the iconic Taj Mahal.

The TTZ is an area of about 10,400 sq kms spread over the districts of Agra, Firozabad, Mathura, Hathras and Etah in Uttar Pradesh and Bharatpur in Rajasthan.

The top court took strong exception that the state government did not file the comprehensive policy before it despite the assurance given two weeks ago that it would be done.

At the outset, a bench comprising justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta asked Additional Solocitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta, representing Uttar Pradesh, as to why the policy was not filed till date.

"You have to give us a copy of the policy. There is no policy here," the bench said after which Mehta submitted he would file the policy in the court during the course of the day.

"We had asked you two weeks ago to give us the policy but now you are saying you will file it today," it said.

The ASG told the court that a policy has been prepared by the TTZ, which is an independent authority, in this regard.

When Mehta said there was "some urgency" with regard to the issue of construction of a multi-level parking being built near the Taj Mahal, the bench said, "There is no immediate urgency. You have stopped your construction work in May. What is the urgency now?"

To this, he said there was traffic congestion in the area and all the authorities, including the TTZ, have stated that a multi-level parking should be constructed there.

"We are not saying that there is no need of parking space there, but you show us the policy. Do not try to bulldoze us like this," the bench said.

The bench, which fixed the matter for hearing on November 20, also asked the state government to apprise it about when the TTZ had conducted meetings since last year.

The apex court had earlier stayed its order directing demolition of a multi-level car parking being built near the Taj Mahal and asked the authorities to maintain status quo there.

The UP government had yesterday told the court that they were "fully committed" to protecting the environment and ensure sustainable development in and around the Taj Mahal and TTZ.

In its affidavit filed in the court, the state said it was considering a separate micro-level plan only limited to protection and preservation of the marble mausoleum.

The affidavit was filed in pursuance to the apex court's October 27 order directing the state to submit a comprehensive policy on preservation of the monument and the TTZ.

Environmentalist M C Mehta, who had filed a plea seeking protection of the Taj from the ill-effects of polluting gases and deforestation in and around the area, had earlier told the bench that the TTZ was an "ecologically sensitive area" and the government should have come out with a comprehensive policy for preservation and protection of the Taj.

The apex court, which is dealing with Mehta's petition, has been monitoring development in the area to protect the Taj Mahal, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal in 1631. The mausoleum is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The top court had earlier passed a slew of directions to protect the monument.