Mehta Vs. Union of India & Ors.  INSC 111 (18 January 2010)
ORIGINAL JURISDICTION I.A. No.474 IN WRIT PETITION (C) NO.13381/1984 M.C. Mehta
Petitioner(s) Versus Union of India & Ors. Respondent(s) O R D E R The
story of an emperor's extraordinary love for his wife that led to its creation
and its magnificent beauty attracts around 1.4 million visitors to the Taj
Mahal annually, of which 20-25% are foreigners and the rest Indian. The peak
period for the visitors is from mid- December to mid- January and on December
27, 2009 the number of people visiting Taj Mahal was thirty six thousand six
hundred and seventy eight (36, 678).
three points of entry into the premises of the Taj Mahal complex; one on the
western side through the Western Gate, the other on the eastern side through
the Eastern Gate and the third on the southern side through the Southern Gate.
Sixty five per cent (65%) of the visitors, almost all Indians, come through the
Western Gates. Thirty per cent (30%) of the visitors, that include most of the
foreigners, use the Eastern Gate around which most of the big and expensive
hotels are located and very few people [no more than five per cent (5%)] use
the Southern Gate on the side of the crowded, medieval part of the town.
On a week
day the number of visitors through the Western Gate is calculated at six
thousand nine hundred and thirty (6,930) and on the weekends twelve thousand
two hundred and fifty (12,250). Through the Easter Gate the number for the
weekdays and the weekends are two thousand eight hundred fifteen [2815 (1600
Indians & 1215 foreigners)] and four thousand (4000) respectively. It may
be added here that these numbers do not include young persons below the age of
fifteen years as they are allowed entry without tickets.
present tickets for entry into the Taj Mahal complex can be purchased only at
the three points of entry.
tickets are for the whole day, that is to say a ticket holder can enter into
the monument complex and spend the rest of the day there till the closure time.
person entering into the Taj Mahal complex is subjected to security clearance
that includes passing through a metal detector door. There are four metal
detector doors on the Western Gate and three on the Eastern Gate. The CISF
personnel who conduct the frisking and body-search are able to clear 3 to 4
persons in a minute. As a result, on the Western Gate there are normally two
queues of 300 metres each with around twenty four hundred (2400) people in
queues. The waiting time for security clearance for every visitor is two and a
half to three hours. On the Eastern Gate there are normally two queues of 120
metres each with nine hundred and sixty (960) people in the queues and the
waiting time on this side is approximately one and a half to two hours. The
areas where the queues are formed are open to sky and there are no facilities
worth the name for the visitors waiting in queues.
to the Taj Mahal is thus put under considerable strain that may be avoided and
the load of the visitors also has an adverse impact on the monument.
background the Archeological Survey of India ("ASI" hereinafter) has
approached the court with a number of proposals aimed at upgrading the
facilities and conveniences for the visitors and regulating their entry into
the Taj Mahal complex aimed at vastly improving and enriching the experience of
visiting the Taj Mahal without in any way affecting the solemn grandeur of one
of the world's wonders of the medieval times. On January 11, 2010 the Director,
ASI made a presentation before us of a project prepared by `The Taj Mahal
Conservation Collaborative'. It was proposed that the ticket for entry into the
Taj Mahal complex would no longer be for the whole day but would be for limited
hours. Also, the entry ticket will be available all over the country through
many different outlets and will also be available online. This would indeed be
of great convenience to the visitors but would also lead to considerable
increase in the number of visitors. The main proposals, therefore, deal with
the management of visitors at the two gates. The main proposals consist of
constructing two Visitors' Centres, one at the Western Gate and the other at
the Eastern Gate and setting up of two Site Interpretation Centres, both inside
the Taj Mahal complex, one on the western side and the other on the eastern
Visitors' Centre on the western side is proposed to be constructed at the site
of ITDC restaurant building.
It is a
non-historic structure and it would be demolished for construction of the
Visitors' Centre. The ASI would compensate the ITDC by allowing it to run the
restaurant in the Western Gate Visitors' Centre directly but not by
outsourcing. The Director, ASI informed us that a meeting in that connection
was held with the Secretary, tourism who was agreeable to the proposal. The
construction of the western Visitors' Centre would require, apart from
demolishing the ITDC restaurant building, felling down of seven trees. These
trees are thirty to sixty years old and their positions are indicated in the
felling down those seven trees, the ASI will plant thirty six new trees at the
points indicated in the project repost. There will also be the need for some
diversion of road for easy access to the Visitors' Centre.
Visitors' Centre on the eastern side is proposed to be located at the site of
the building of the Directorate of Horticulture, located near the Eastern Gate.
The ASI will relocate these offices at some other place(s) in Agra. The
construction of the Eastern Gate Visitors' Centre would require removal of the
building of the Directorate of Horticulture and felling down of seven trees.
These trees are forty to eighty years old and their positions were shown in
the presentation. The ASI would make compensatory plantation of 16 trees at the
points indicated in the presentation. The construction of the Visitors' Centre
would need some diversion of road and laying out of some new road(s).
Director presented before us the building plan and the lay out of the Visitors'
Centres on both sides. The structures would be six feet below the ground and
only seven feet above the ground. We were told by the Director that "the
Visitors' Centres are folded within the landscape with the minimum impact on
the historic sites". In other words, the two buildings will be barely
visible, camouflaged by landscaping.
Visitors' Centre shall have twenty eight thousand five hundred (28, 500) square
feet of holding area and shall provide accommodation for:
purchase of entry tickets with a covered queuing area,
Covered area for security queuing,
metal detector doors for security checks,
Waiting room for photographers/guides,
Waiting room for security staff,
Drinking water fountains, 9. Ladies and gents toilets.
from the covered area there would be a large open-to-sky courtyard (17meters x
17meters) leading to the entrance to the Taj Mahal complex.
shown how the structure would look from the above. In the presentation it was
shown as manicured lawn/area open-to-sky. We are conscious that the plan is at
a very preliminary stage but we are constrained to observe that though
appearing as a nice lawn with some good looking trees, the area seems to have a
modern look and does not seem to have the same character as the gardens inside
the Taj Mahal complex or a typical Mughal garden. It needs hardly be stated
that even lawns and open areas have different characters and can reflect
different cultures and different periods of time. We are sure while finalising
the plan the ASI shall ensure that the area over the buildings of the Visitors'
Centres has, as much as possible, the same character as the gardens inside the
Taj Mahal complex and it melts into the monument of which it would serve as the
from the two Visitors' Centres at the two gates, there is the proposal to set
up Site Interpretation Centres, one each on the western and eastern sides. On
the western side, the Interpretation Centre is proposed to be located in the
Taj Garden (nursery) and on the eastern side in the History Conservation Centre
(gaushala). The Site Interpretation Centres would give to those visitors, who
care to go to them, a historical introduction to the monument through audio visual
programmes. We were informed that the equipments and appliances for the Site
Interpretation Centres will be set up in the existing structures, without in
any manner degrading or even disturbing them. We could see that Mr.Krishan
Mahajan, learned amicus curiae and the other lawyers appearing for the
different sides were somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of setting up the
Site Interpretation Centres inside the structures within the Taj complex. We
too have reservations about this proposal. The idea of installing modern
electronic equipments inside structures built during 1632 to 1653 AD appears
more than a little incongruous. An audio-visual historical introduction to the
monument is undoubtedly a good idea but the ASI must find some space for it outside
the Taj complex.
careful consideration of the matter and having regard to the present problems
and concerns which are indeed very realistic we, in principle, approve the
proposal for construction of two Visitors' Centres, one on the western side and
the other on the eastern side at the sites indicated in the presentation.
the actual construction of the Centres should start only after the final plans
are presented and approved by this Court.
January 18, 2010.