The Supreme Court today observed that industrial units operating in Agra should be shut down, wondering how the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) Authority was considering proposals to expand industries in the city of Taj Mahal when there was an “ad hoc moratorium” on it.
The TTZ Authority looks after an area of about 10,400 sq kms spread over the districts of Agra, Firozabad, Mathura, Hathras and Etah in Uttar Pradesh and Bharatpur district of Rajasthan.
A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta told an industry body to “shut down” all industries. “Charity begins at home. The first step should be that these industries should be closed down”, it said.
It ordered the TTZ Chairman and Commissioner of Agra division to personally appear before the court on July 26 to explain why its orders in this regard were not complied with.
“There are new proposal from industries. How can they (TTZ) consider it when there cannot be any expansion (of industries) and there is an ad hoc moratorium. How is TTZ considering it (proposal),” the bench asked.
“On what basis the TTZ is considering these proposals? How can they do it? People are applying and their applications are being considered by the TTZ. How,” it posed.
Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, said the expansion of industries cannot be allowed there since an “ad hoc moratorium” is in force.
The bench also wondered how could anyone apply for expansion of industries when they were not entitled to do it.
When a lawyer, representing the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board, claimed that the National Chamber of Industries and Commerce had earlier sought permission for expansion of industries in the area, environmentalist M C Mehta, who has raised the issue of preservation of Taj Mahal, told the court that the TTZ was not bothered about the expansion of industries in the area.
“Now, we will make them (TTZ) bother as they are bothering us,” the bench observed and told the counsel representing the industry chamber that the factories operating there should be shut down.
“You tell your people to close all industries. You start shutting them down,” the bench said, adding, “Charity begins at home. The first step should be that these industries should be closed down”.
The counsel, however, said he would take instruction in the issue and would get back to the court.
Nadkarni told the bench that a special committee has been set up which would visit Agra and the areas under the TTZ, find the sources of pollution and suggest measures to curb it.
“It (committee) will also look into the issue of algae. The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change is serious about this matter,” he said, adding that the ministry has taken several steps for protection of Taj Mahal.
The bench also issued notice to the TTZ authority on a plea seeking contempt action them for allegedly letting up new industries to come up in the area.
It said that the TTZ should furnish the details of industries operating in the area and also explain whether they have granted any permission to any such unit for expansion.
The apex court has been monitoring development in the area to protect the Taj Mahal, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal in 1643. The historic mausoleum is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.