Refusing to overturn a ban on outsiders entering the Taj Mahal complex in Agra for namaz or Friday prayers, the Supreme Court today said the monument "is among the seven wonders of the world" and needs to be protected.
Judges AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said there were several other mosques in Agra and those from outside the town could offer prayers there. "Why, for such prayers, should they go to the Taj Mahal," they questioned.
"This (Taj Mahal) is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and we do not want this to decimate. We are dismissing it (plea)," said the bench said, adding, "There are other mosques also. They can offer their prayers there."
A petition had challenged a January 24 order that said only residents of Agra would be allowed to offer prayers in the mosque, for the sake of security of the world-renowned marble monument. The administration also ordered people praying at the mosque to carry their IDs to prove they were residents.
Syed Ibrahim Hussain Zaidi, the chief of the Taj Mahal Masjid Management Committee, represented the petitioner. He called the ban "illegal, arbitrary and unconstitutional" and asserted that every person should be permitted to go inside the mosque and offer prayers.
The ban on outsiders praying in the complex, he said, "made an arbitrary classification between the residents and non-residents" and was "not based on any intelligible or rational principles".
"Equal persons have been treated unequally without any reasonableness," the petition said, suggesting that just as residents were allowed to enter the mosque after being frisked, non-residents could also be permitted inside in the same manner.
The court, however, rejected the argument.