NEW DELHI: People, who are not the residents of Agra, would not be allowed to enter a mosque located inside the Taj Mahal complex to offer Friday prayers, the Supreme Court ordered today, while rejecting a plea saying the monument was one of the seven wonders of the world and it cannot be "decimated".
A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan observed that there were several other mosques in Agra and the non-residents could offer the customary prayers there.
The direction came when the apex court was hearing a plea challenging a January 24 order of Agra's Additional District Magistrate (City) barring non-residents from offering Friday prayers in the mosque on the ground of security of Taj Mahal.
"This (Taj Mahal) is one of the seven wonders of the world and we do not want this to decimate. We are dismissing it (plea)," the bench said.
At the outset, the bench asked: "why for such prayers, should they go to the Taj Mahal?" "We are not entertaining this (plea)," the bench said, adding, "there are other mosques also.
They can offer their prayers there.
The counsel for petitioner Syed Ibrahim Hussain Zaidi, president of the Taj Mahal Masjid Management Committee, Agra, said that every person should be permitted to go inside the mosque and offer prayers.
The petitioner also said that several tourists visited Agra throughout the year and the January 24 order was "illegal, arbitrary and unconstitutional".
"The administrative action by way of impugned order dated January 24, 2018 of the respondent making illegal and arbitrary classification between the residents and non-residents on the question of security of the monument is not based on any intelligible or rational principles and being wholly unrelated to the objects sought be achieved. Hence, the said impugned order is liable to be struck down," the plea said.
It claimed that by virtue of the January 24 order, equal persons have been treated unequally without any reasonableness.
The plea said when local residents of the city were allowed to enter the mosque after being frisked by security agencies to offer their prayers, the non-residents could also be permitted to go there in the same manner.
It alleged that due to the order, the non-residents were being deprived of offering their customary prayer at the mosque which was violative of their fundamental rights.
"It is worth mentioning that all the affairs in respect of Taj Mahal complex have been managed, controlled and supervised by the Archaeological Survey of India," it said while seeking a stay on the operation of the order.
Another bench of the apex court is seized of a matter relating to protection and preservation of Taj Mahal.