Renovation worked assigned to ADMA declared illegal by Rajasthan High Court
The Rajasthan High Court on Tuesday ordered closure of all commercial activities at the historic Amber Fort here in view of its status as a protected monument since 1968 and declared illegal the renovation work assigned to the Amber Development and Management Authority (ADMA) during the previous Bharatiya Janata Party regime in the State.
A Division Bench of the High Court, while admitting a suo motu public interest litigation for hearing, also issued show cause notice to the Union Tourism Secretary with the observation that Rs.30.61 crore had been provided by the Centre for renovation, restoration and protection of the fort built by the erstwhile Kachhawa Rajput rulers.
The Bench, comprising Justice Ashok Parihar and Justice G.S. Saraf, passed the interim orders while admitting the case registered by the Court itself when a portion of the protected Amber Fort wall collapsed during the shooting of Salman Khan starrer film, “Veer”, on February 13 this year. The Court had appointed a lawyer, Abhinav Sharma, as “friend of the people” who visited the fort and submitted his report.
The Court said the counsel’s report had clearly shown that damage had been caused to the fort and palace “under the pretext of conservation and renovation.” It held that the ADMA was illegally assigned the task which was to be carried out by either the Director, Archaeology, or an officer not below the rank of Collector with the issue of a specific notification in this regard.
The ADMA – registered as a society by the then Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 – was given the responsibility to manage the entire fort and take up the renovation work as well as granting of licences for commercial activities on the premises.
The Bench observed that the State Government had abdicated its functions by “illegally delegating” its specific powers to the ADMA: “A bare reading of the constitution of the society would show that it is in no way in consonance with the Advisory Board for protected monuments under the law.”
Taking note of the fact that Rs. 30.61 crore had been released by the Centre for the renovation work at the fort, the Court sought an explanation from the Union Tourism Secretary through the show cause notice.
The Court, however, directed the State Government to allow small vendors to sell the items for worship at a temple situated inside the fort as well as water and cold drinks on the premises.