Illegal construction near historic Lalji temple: SC asks ASI to decide

15 Apr 2018

The issue of ongoing illegal constructions within prohibited 200 metre area of the 279 year-old historic Lalji temple, dedicated to Lord Krishna, at Bardhaman in West Bengal has reached the Supreme Court, which asked the Archaeological Survey of India to decide the matter within four weeks. Built in 1739 AD by the Bardhaman royal family, the Lalji temple is ornamented with beautiful terracotta art and is a magnificent brick-built temple with 25 spires ('Panchavimshati Ratna') and is the oldest temple at Kalna in Bardhaman. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), through a notification issued in 1992, had declared areas up to 100 metres from the temple as protected. Later, the limit was raised to 200 metres by the ASI, which said that neither mining nor construction activities could be carried out within the prohibited area.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said though the issue needed to be looked into urgently, the ASI would be the appropriate authority to deal with it. Seventy-five-year-old Shankar Lal Agrawala, through his lawyers Anil Kumar Mishra and Anurag Singh, approached the apex court seeking a direction to authorities, including the ASI, to stop the ongoing illegal construction within the prohibited area of the historic temple. He has also sought demolition of the constructions that have already come up. The lawyers said that Agrawala, a resident of Bardhman, was forced to approach the top court due to the ongoing strike of lawyers in the Calcutta High Court.
They said the construction activity was going on at such a speed that if urgent remedial measures were not taken the purpose to save the monument would get defeated. "This is a temple of Lord Krishna and is also locally referred to 'mini Vrindavan'. The temple has exquisite terracotta and brick carvings. This temple is a centrally protected monument," they said, seeking judicial intervention. The bench asked Agrawala to file a representation within a week to the ASI which, in turn, will have to take a decision within four weeks thence. "We permit the petitioner to submit a representation to respondent no.1 - Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) - within a week hence which shall consider the same in accordance with law. "Be it noted, we have passed such a direction, for, a submission has been advanced that the property in question is a protected ancient monument to be looked after by ASI," it said. (PTI)