NEW DELHI: “Can algae fly?” This question was posed by the Supreme Court to the Archeological Survey of India which faced its wrath for failure to take steps to protect the iconic Taj Mahal
The top court also asked the government whether the ASI needed to be “thrown out of the picture” on protection and preservation of the historic white marble mausoleum.
When ASI’s counsel contended that algae on the monument was a cause of concern, the bench shot back asking “can algae fly?” and how can algae “reach the top of the structure”.
The scathing remarks by the top court came after a bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta perused recent photographs of the Taj Mahal and expressed concern over the monument being infested by insects and algae.
The top court has been monitoring developments in the area around the monument, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal in 1631, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It had on May 1 expressed concern over the changing colour of the Taj apparently due to pollution and rapped the government.
Today, the bench took exception to the arguments by counsel appearing for the ASI and observed, “This situation would not have arisen if the ASI would have done its job. We are surprised with the way the ASI is defending itself”.
“You (Centre) please consider if the ASI is needed there or not. The view of ASI is very clear from their submissions. They are not prepared to accept the problem,” the court told Additional Solicitor General (ASG) A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre.
“You have to remove the ASI because they are saying they are doing an excellent job. ASI will have to be thrown out of the picture,” the bench said.
ASG Tushar Mehta told the court that it was a matter of “failure” and the government was concerned over the situation at the Taj.
We have to accept that there is a problem and then find a solution. It will be brought to the notice of the highest authority,” he said, adding, “It is a cause. We must protect our history. We owe it to our history”.
ASG Nadkarni told the bench that the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) was considering the apex court’s suggestion to appoint international experts to look into the issue of protection and preservation of Taj Mahal.
The bench asked the authorities what steps they have taken to prevent the monument getting infected by insects.
The lawyer appearing for ASI said the presence of insects was due to the stagnation of water of river Yamuna and this problem occured after the monsoon.
He also referred to the huge footfall at the mausoleum and said that tourists entered wearing “dirty socks”.
The bench then asked whether ASI had examined why these insects were there and whether there was any spray which could prevent it.
court also expressed surprise that that its order on the Taj Mahal and closure of industrial units in Agra way back in 1996 was not yet implemented, rather the number of industries have grown in the area.