New Delhi: Pending a conclusive study on the increase in air traffic and its possible impact on the Taj Mahal, the Supreme Court has restrained the Airports Authority of India (AAI) from plying additional aircraft from the Agra airfield.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde allowed the AAI to build an additional terminal at the Agra airport, but with a caveat that no additional planes will land and take off from this site.
The restraint came after environmentalist MC Mehta pointed out that the court’s permission for the construction of an additional terminal should not be construed as a nod towards increase in air traffic since that may be hazardous to the environment around the Taj.
"Prima facie, we consider this objection to be a sound objection and we do not propose to allow an increase in air traffic on this air field," said the bench, also including Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant.
At this, Additional Solicitor General ANS Nadkarni, representing the central government, said the government is willing to undertake a study to assess the number of tourists who utilise the airport and the anticipatory increase in their numbers over the years.
Nadkarni said the Centre will seek permission to allow such increase in air traffic at the said airport after conducting a study but the top court, for the time being, turned down this request.
The court order said, “It might be difficult to permit an increase in air traffic. We, therefore, consider it appropriate to direct the Union of India to consider an alternative site in such anticipatory increase in traffic where the aircrafts could operate from.”
The bench said the government may consider running trains such as ‘Palace on Wheels’ to transport passengers from the new airfield to the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) in Agra.
“The Union of India will also consider involving the Railways to solve the problems of anticipation of tourists and bear in mind the fact that it will serve nobody’s interest to have the area polluted, with resultant damage to the people and the heritage monuments," it said.
The bench directed that the report by the Centre should be submitted within three months, following which a final decision will be taken on a permanent restraint against increasing the air traffic around the Taj Mahal.
The Supreme Court is hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) on protection of the Taj and has issued several directives in the last two decades to ensure the glory of the heritage monument.