The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday refused to allow prayers by outsiders- that is, not locals – at the mosque on the premises of the Taj Mahal, saying the monument’s preservation is paramount. The apex court dismissed a plea challenging the Agra authority’s order debarring non-residents of the city from offering Friday prayers at a mosque in the Taj Mahal complex.
A bench of Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said that the Taj Mahal was one of the seven wonders of the world and people can offer their prayers at other mosques also. The top court said the Taj is one of the seven wonders of the world and must be preserved. It added there is no need to perform prayers at the Taj Mahal.
The petition has challenged the January 24, 2018 order passed by the ADM (City) Agra which said that those who are not residents of Agra, would not be allowed to enter the mosque situated at the Taj Mahal for offering customary prayers on Fridays on grounds of security.
To ensure foolproof security to the Taj Mahal, a world heritage site, the district administration on January 24 this year ordered that only locals with valid identity proof will be allowed entry to the monument complex to offer ‘namaz’ on Fridays. A petitioner had moved the SC against the district magistrate order.
The court said the 16th Century monument was one of the seven wonders of the world and should be preserved. “Why for such prayers they should go to the Taj Mahal?” asked the bench of Justices A Sikri and Ashok Bhushan. “There are other mosques also. They can offer their prayers there.”
On January 24, the Agra additional district magistrate had barred non-residents of the city from offering prayers at the mosque citing security reasons. In January, the district administration ordered that people entering the premises of the Taj for offering prayers on Fridays will have to carry identity cards to prove that they are residents of Agra. The Taj Mahal remains closed for tourists on Fridays. The administration’s move came following complaints that “outsiders”, including Bangladeshis and non-Indians”, enter the Taj Mahal complex on Fridays on the pretext of offering ‘namaz”.
The order also stated that the district magistrate should be immediately informed in case any outsider tries to enter the mosque. The order issued by additional district magistrate (city) K P Singh also states that entry of ‘outsiders’ can adversely affect the security of the monument.
Petitioner Syed Ibrahim Hussain Zaidi, president of Taj Mahal Masjid Management Committee, Agra, told the bench that several tourists visit Agra throughout the year and the order of ADM (Additional District Magistrate) (City), Agra restraining them from offering their prayers at the mosque inside the Taj Mahal was illegal and arbitrary.
“Why for such prayers they should go to the Taj Mahal,” the bench said, adding “There are other mosques also. They can offer their prayers there.”
“Now, we will allow only residents of Agra city to offer namaz at the mosque located inside the Taj Mahal complex,” said Agra district magistrate Guarav Dayal said, Similar orders were issued in 2013 by the Archaeological Survey of India but these were not enforced properly, said an official.
Syed Ibrahim Hussain Zaidi, the president of Taj Mahal Masjid Management Committee, challenged the order in the Supreme Court, calling it illegal and arbitrary.