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Friday, 17 December, 1999, 17:18 GMT
Taj nights face legal challenge

Taj Mahal at dusk The Taj Mahal has been closed at night for the last 14 years


By Geeta Pandey in Delhi

The Supreme Court in India has upheld an appeal by a leading environmentalist against a decision to allow tourists into the Taj Mahal at night.

The move comes after state authorities in Uttar Pradesh, and the Archaeological Survey of India, announced earlier that the 17th century monument would re-open at night after a gap of 14 years.

The court's ruling means the planned re-opening now has to be delayed.

The Taj Mahal has been closed at night from 1985, when it was found to be on the hit list of some terrorist organisations.


Taj Mahal Environmentalists worry about increased numbers of visitors
The legal challenge came from M C Mehta, a prominent environmental activist and lawyer.

Mr Mehta said he was challenging the decision primarily because night-viewing would further jeopardise the Taj Mahal's structure, which is already under a great deal of strain from the large number of tourists who visit the monument every day.

But he also said opening the monument at night would increase security risks.

Mr Mehta has been fighting a long battle to preserve and protect the Taj Mahal from environmental pollution, and his past efforts have resulted in the closing down of several factories near to the monument.

The magnificent white marble Taj Mahal, built by the Mughal emperor Shahjahan as a symbol of his love for his favourite queen, Mumtaz, is one of the seven wonders of the world.

According to one estimate, the monument is visited by about 10m tourists every year

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10 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Moonlight viewing of the Taj

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