The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Uttar Pradesh government to submit a vision document for protection and preservation of the Taj Mahal in Agra within four weeks, saying it was difficult to proceed in the matter without it.
A bench comprising justices S A Bobde and S K Kaul also asked the Centre to place before it in eight weeks time a report on declaring Agra a heritage city.
The vision document is being prepared by the Delhi School of Planning and Architecture for the UP government.
On September 25, 2018, the apex court had extended till November 15 the time for the Uttar Pradesh government to come out with the vision document on protecting the 17th-century monument and had asked it to consider declaring a portion of the area surrounding it as 'heritage'.
But as the state government did not file the vision document, the apex court on Wednesday said it was difficult to proceed in the matter and granted it four weeks to complete it.
Earlier, the government had quoted the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI):
"Pollutants from various sources have been superficially depositing on the marble surface of Taj Mahal as particulate matters and due to scattering of light by these particles, the marble surface of Taj Mahal appears to have changed in colour".
This was in response to questions in the Lok Sabha as to whether the marble of world famous Taj Mahal is getting discoloured due to air pollution.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Environment Mahesh Sharma, while replying to questions on Friday, had said that the ASI has formulated scientific cleaning and conservation plan to protect the surface of Taj Mahal from deposited pollutants.
The Supreme Court had in May expressed concern over the change of colour of the Mughal-era world famous monument and asked the government what it was doing about it. The apex court suggested that the Centre take the assistance of experts from India and abroad to first assess the damage and then take steps to restore the historic monument.
“We don’t know whether you have or perhaps don’t have the expertise. Even if you have the expertise, you are not utilising it. Or perhaps you don’t care,” a bench comprising Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said. “Perhaps we need some expert organisation from outside India unless there is a decision that the Taj has to go,” the bench said sarcastically, adding, “you can get experts from India as well as from outside.”
(With inputs from agencies)