The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a strong reprimand to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for failing to prevent and preserve the iconic Taj Mahal. While expressing displeasure over Taj being infested by insects, the Apex court asked ASI what measures it had taken to improve the upkeep of the historical monument. “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,” a bench of Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta observed.

Meanwhile, Additional Solicitor General, ANS Nadkarni, told the court that the the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) was considering the apex court’s suggestion to appoint international experts to look into the issue of protection and preservation of Taj Mahal. The counsel appearing for ASI told the court that the problem of insects was due to stagnation of water of river Yamuna. The ASI also said that algae were a “big problem” at the monument. To this, the judges asked, “But how has algae reached the top parts?” “It flew there,” the ASI replied. The court then remarked sarcastically, “Can algae fly?”

The top court has been monitoring developments in the area to protect the monument. Earlier, in March the apex court had asked Uttar Pradesh government to place before it a draft of vision document on protection and preservation of the Taj and the environment in the Taj Trapezium Zone, which is an area of about 10,400 sq km spread over the districts of Agra.

The petitioner and environmentalist M C Mehta, had said the authorities have not complied with the apex court’s directions due to which the condition of the monument has become “horrible”. He had said that besides change in its colour, there were patches on the marbles and recently a minaret had also fallen down.

The top court had expressed concern a week before over the changing colour of Taj and suggested the authorities to appoint international experts to look into the issue of protection and preservation of Taj Mahal.

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