SC slams govt: Either you restore it or demolish it

Shut down or demolish the Taj Mahal if it cannot be restored, the Supreme Court thundered on Wednesday, hauling up the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government for their “lethargy” and “apathy” in protecting the iconic ‘monument of love’.

The bench of Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta said, “You [government] can shut down the Taj. You can demolish it if you like and you can also do away with it if you have already decided.”

They were hearing a petition filed by environmentalist MC Mehta seeking protection of the pristine mausoleum, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“Uttar Pradesh (government) is not bothered. No action plan or vision document has come yet,” the bench said. On Tuesday, while speaking at the Fourth Mail Today Tourism Summit in Delhi, Union minister for Culture Mahesh Sharma had categorically said that the Taj Mahal was in no danger. “Taj Mahal is precious to all of us. No damage has been done to it by insects. As regards effect of pollution, we are identifying its base colour to restore it to the original. We have also restricted visiting hours from eight to three to reduce negative impact,” he said.

Irked that no steps had been taken despite a Parliamentary Standing Committee report calling for the restoration of Taj Mahal, the apex court termed the attitude of the government ‘lethargic’ and the responses filed as ‘vague’.

The Supreme Court further dubbed the preservation of the historical site as a ‘hopeless cause’ as the Centre and the state governments have failed to take any measure.

When one of the government lawyers tried to point out that the ‘vision document’ is being prepared, the court said that the government must be proactive in its approach and the vision document should not come after the Taj is fully destroyed.

When asked about the number of tourists who visited India last year, additional solicitor-general ANS Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, said the figure was about 10 million.

“There is sheer lethargy and apathy. People (abroad) are making money, but no one is bothered (here),” the court said. Slamming the Centre for the (perceived) loss of foreign exchange which could be earned thanks to Taj Mahal, the bench said, “Do you realise the loss to the country due to this sheer lethargy? Foreign exchange, infrastructure, everything is lost due to this. There is a loss to tourism. One monument can do it, but there is apathy.”

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