Describing as a "hopeless cause" the protection of the Taj Mahal, the Supreme Court today tore into the central and Uttar Pradesh governments for what it called their "lethargy" and said: "Either we will shut down the Taj or you demolish or restore it."
The Supreme Court was hearing a petition that calls for proper maintenance of the Taj, a 16th century marble mausoleum that draws thousands of tourists from India and abroad each year and is a must-see on the itinerary of most dignitaries.
The Taj "is more beautiful than the Eiffel Tower" and could have solved the country's foreign exchange problem, the judges noted.
While making their point, the judges likened the famed monument in Paris, a tourist favourite, to a "TV tower".
"Eighty million go to watch Eiffel Tower which looks like a TV Tower. Our Taj is more beautiful. If you had looked after it your foreign exchange problem would have been solved," said the judges.
Only one monument, they said, could have solved the problem of the country. "Do you realise the loss cost to the country due to your apathy? There are so many monuments..."
The court expressed anguish over the UP government's failure to come out with a vision document to preserve and protect the Taj and also asked for details on what the centre has done.
Also, the chairman of the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) was to explain the violation of the court's ban on the expansion of industrial units in the zone.
The Supreme Court had earlier this year blamed the Archeological Survey of India for its failure to take appropriate steps to protect and preserve the iconic monument built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal.
In May, the court had noted that the monument had become yellowish earlier and was now brown and green because of pollution.
The judges today said the case would be heard on a day-to-day basis from July 31.