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Allahabad HC dismisses plea to open rooms in Taj Mahal; Slams petitioner


Lucknow: The Allahabad High Court on Thursday dismissed a plea seeking a ‘fact-finding inquiry’ into the history of the Taj Mahal and the ‘opening of 22 rooms’ on the monument’s premises, saying the petitioner failed to point out which of his legal or constitutional rights were being infringed.

The Lucknow bench of justices D K Upadhyay and Subhash Vidyarthi pulled up the lawyer of petitioner Rajneesh Singh, who is the media in-charge of the BJP’s Ayodhya unit, for filing the PIL in a ‘casual manner’ and said it cannot pass an order under Article 226 of the Constitution in the matter. The article empowers a high court to issue to any person or authority in the area under its jurisdiction orders or writs to enforce the fundamental rights.

The writ petition was filed on Saturday in the registry of the Lucknow bench of the high court seeking a fact-finding inquiry into the history of the Taj Mahal. It also sought opening of the doors of its ’22 rooms’ to see ‘the truth, whatever it is’. The bench said that it was a non-justiciable issue that cannot be decided or gone into by the court. The bench said that the petitioner could not point out as to which of his legal or constitutional rights were being infringed. Dismissing the plea as misconceived, the bench pulled up the petitioner’s counsel Rudra Pratap Singh over and again for moving the PIL without properly conducting legal research work. It declined to intervene into factual issues as to what was behind the closed doors of the Taj.

Earlier, assistant solicitor general S B Pandey opposed the PIL, arguing that it was not maintainable because the territorial jurisdiction fell into Allahabad High Court and not to Lucknow bench. Besides, he also argued that the prayers were misconceived and even the petitioner had not disclosed his credentials leading him to file the said PIL and as such it was not maintainable. He also stated that in the same issue, a civil suit was pending in an Agra court. Pandey further argued that the Allahabad High Court had already dismissed the petition raising the same issue.

In course of hearing, the petitioner’s counsel tried to impress that the issue was a bone of contention between two communities and if the court intervened, it could be set at rest. He even requested bench to take it as suo-motu cause. The petitioner’s counsel Singh could not reply to the repeated query of the bench as to what legal or constitutional right of the petitioner was being infringed, for which the high court should directly intervene. The bench was irked with the petitioner’s counsel that such sensitive issue was brought before the bench without conducting proper historical and legal research work.

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As the petitioner’s counsel tried to explain the history of the Taj as written by some historians about age and construction, the bench reacted, saying, ‘Are we sitting to determine age of the Taj?’. We cannot pronounce a verdict on conflicting views based on different historical reasons, said the bench. The bench said that judges are not trained and equipped to deal with the issue. The issue which can be taken up by the court should be justiciable based on Principle of Justiciability, the bench observed.

Sensing that the bench was going to dismiss the PIL, the petitioner’s counsel sought to withdraw the plea with permission of the court to file fresh plea but the bench did not yield. Several Hindu right-wing outfits have claimed in the past that the Mughal-era mausoleum was a Lord Shiva temple. The monument is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The petition also sought the setting aside of certain provisions of The Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Declaration of National Importance) Act 1951, and The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958, under which the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra Fort, Itimad-ud-Daulah’s tomb were declared historical monuments.


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