Gujarat high court notice to ASI, railways over construction near Brick Minarets

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat high court has issued notice to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) and local administration over a PIL complaining of illegal construction by the railway authorities within restricted zone of the Brick Minarets, which are a centrally protected monument in Kalupur area.

The Brick Minarets are the tallest in Ahmedabad and are now located to the north of Ahmedabad Junction railway station. Though much damaged, especially near the foot, the stairs inside the minarets may still be used. The minarets are three stories tall with carved balconies.

A resident of Walled City, Munaf Ahmed Mullaji has sought HC directions to ASI for its inaction against the DRM, who illegally put up construction within 30 metre of the protected monument, though the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act does not permit any construction within a 100-metre zone and prohibits it in a 200-metre regulated zone without permission from competent authority.

Petitioner’s advocate Khalid Shaikh submitted before the HC that the railway authorities started illegal construction in the prohibited zone of the brick minarets and ASI’s local office wrote to the DRM on January 1, 2018 to immediately obtain permission for the same. The same week, ASI issued a notice to the DRM asking him to stop construction work. On January 17, ASI issued a show-cause notice and on July 17, ASI threatened the DRM of initiating criminal proceedings for violation of laws.

However, the ASI did not take any criminal action, neither did it remove the construction allegedly illegally put up by the railways. The petitioner made various representations to the ASI, but to no effect.

The petitioner has sought HC direction to ASI to take criminal action against the DRM for the illegal construction near the listed monument and sought directions to Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) and the district collector for removal of the construction. His advocate termed the construction as illegal citing amended laws, which say that no new construction whatsoever could be permitted within the prohibited area of a centrally protected monument. The DRM could not have sought permission for the construction.

The court has sought reply from ASI and DRM by January 16.