New Delhi: The Supreme Court has directed the Agra Development Authority to immediately stop all commercial activities within a 500-metre radius from the peripheral wall of the iconic Taj Mahal. A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and AS Oka told the Agra Development Authority to ensure compliance with its order in relation to the 17th-century white marble mausoleum.
The order of the apex court came while hearing an application seeking direction to the authorities to prohibit commercial activities within the 500-metre radius of the historic mausoleum. ‘We allow the prayer that reads– Direct the Agra Development Authority to remove all business activities within 500 meters from the boundary/peripheral wall of the monument Taj Mahal which shall be in tune with Article 14 of the Constitution of India’, the apex court order read. The 500m-radius of the monument is a no-construction zone, besides strict regulations on vehicular movement. There is also a ban on the burning of wood near the monument and municipal solid waste and agriculture waste in the entire area.
The bench took on into the submissions of senior advocate ADN Rao, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae, that it would be in the interest of the protected monument to issue directions for barring all commercial activities near the Taj Mahal. The application was filed by a group of shop owners who had been allotted an area outside the 500-metre radius to run their businesses. They told the court that illegal business activities are being carried out near the Taj Mahal which is in gross violation of the previous orders of the top court.
The top court has seized the matter, filed in 1984 related to the protection and preservation of the Taj Mahal, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal in 1631, and its surroundings. Environmentalist MC Mehta had filed the plea pertaining to the protection of the Taj Mahal, the fragile ecosystem surrounding it, and construction in the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ), an ‘eco-sensitive area’ having four world heritage sites including the Taj Mahal. The mausoleum is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The TTZ, established on December 30, 1996, to protect the Taj Mahal from pollution through an order of the Supreme Court, is a 10,400 sq km area spread across the districts of Agra, Firozabad, Mathura, Hathras and Etah in Uttar Pradesh and Bharatpur district of Rajasthan.