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India News

Parking Lot Within 1 km Of Taj Mahal Can Stay For Now, Says Supreme Court



The Supreme Court said no action is needed till it receives and reviews a detailed report on attempts to preserve a zone of about 10,000 sq kms near the Taj Mahal.

Reported by Alok Pandey, Edited by Shylaja Varma

A parking lot located within walking distance of the Taj Mahal that is still being constructed does not need to be demolished for now, the Supreme Court said today, changing its stand.

On Tuesday, the top court said that the two-storey parking lot, which also has a basement, and lies a kilometre from the main eastern entrance to the stunning monument, must be brought down because it could damage the Taj, which is one of the seven wonders of the world. The parking lot is part of a new project to host tourists – the Taj Orientation Centre – that is being built at a cost of 230 crores.

But today, judges said no action is needed till it receives and reviews a detailed report on attempts to preserve a zone of about 10,000 sq kms near the 17th-century marble mausoleum built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a tribute to his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, after she died.

Tushar Mehta, among the most senior government lawyers, said that the Supreme Court will be given full details on how the centre plans to protect the Taj. The next hearing has been fixed for November 15.

The petition against the parking lots was filed by environmentalist M C Mehta who says the construction and other development in the vicinity could imperil the Taj.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath visited the Taj yesterday in a concerted effort to contract the controversy initiated by him and expanded by other leaders of the BJP about the impotance of the monument to India. In June, the Yogi, who is a priest from Eastern Uttar Pradesh, said the practice of foreign dignitaries receiving replicas of the Taj as official government gifts should be ended because the monument is not an appropriate representation of Indian culture. Then a list of tourist attractions issued by his government excluded the Taj Mahal. Earlier this month, BJP leader Sangeet Som, accused of delivering hate speeches, said the Taj was built by “traitors” and “is a blot on Indian culture.”

As the opposition and other critics accused the BJP of distorting the value and significance of the Taj through an ugly communal prism, Yogi Adityanath yesterday pegged it as “a rare gem” and said “why or how it was built is not important….what is relevant is that it was built with the blood and sweat of Indian workers.”

Before visiting the graves of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, he swept a tiny portion of a main road outside the Taj, while wearing a mask, gloves and a baseball hat, to promote Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Clean India campaign.

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