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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
Taj Mahal probe ordered
Taj Mahal
Investigators must find out who approved the $40m scheme
India's Supreme Court has ordered a high-level investigation into the approval of a shopping and entertainment complex on the site of the Taj Mahal.

The project sparked a public outcry and was halted by India's Culture Minister, Jagmohan.

The court on Wednesday ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate the use of state funds and how the project had been approved in violation of environment protection laws.

The CBI, India's main federal investigative body, has two months to file its report.

Allegations... will come to an end and irresponsible statements will cease
Uttar Pradesh's chief minister

The court ruling said: "The powers in Uttar Pradesh [state], instead of creating something new which could be classified as a world heritage monument, are trying to demolish or endanger an existing world heritage monument by their hasty or irregular activities."

The CBI is tasked with finding out who approved the 1.75bn rupee ($40 million) complex of malls, restaurants and amusement parks.

A state-run company says it spent more than 300 million rupees before the project was stopped.

Official suspended

Following the public outcry, both Uttar Pradesh and Delhi denied approving the project.

Uttar Pradesh Environment Secretary RK Sharma was suspended by the state for releasing funds.

The state's chief minister, Mayawati, welcomed the latest probe, saying "allegations and counter-allegations will come to an end and irresponsible statements will cease".

Construction on the project began in November last year.

The state government said it needed to relocate shops that had been removed from the Taj Mahal premises under a Supreme Court order.

It also argued that tourists would be able to visit the Taj Mahal without travelling through the crowded and polluted streets of Agra city.

The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum built by Shah Jahan in the 17th Century for his wife Mumtaj Mahal, who died in childbirth.

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