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The Supreme Court has sought an explanation from the UP government and Agra civic bodies for allegedly permitting illegal construction in a prohibited zone near Taj Mahal. "The chairman of the Agra Development Authority and the commissioner of Agra Municipal Corporation shall submit a report to us whether the permission has been granted by them for construction within the prohibited zone," said a special bench comprising Justice S B Sinha, Justice S H Kapadia and Justice D K Jain.

The court was hearing an application filed by advocate M C Mehta alleging that large-scale construction for residential and commercial purposes has been allowed on the riverbed near Taj in violation of the apex court order.

"Except for road plantation there is no green coverage. All the open spaces and agricultural land is being used for commercial purposes, and the green area has gone down," Mr Mehta said. He also said the new master plan of 2000-21 for the city be stayed as it allowed the green belt and agricultural land to be used for construction purposes.

"If the land (green belt and agricultural land) is allowed to be used for the residential and commercial purposes then it would be a big threat to Taj," Mr Mehta contended, displaying the maps showing decrease of green cover in case of the implementation of the new master plan.

The court after hearing the plea issued notices to the state government and the local bodies, and sought replies within four weeks.

The court, however, refused to pass any order on the state government's plea seeking its permission to cut down 2,332 trees for widening the road leading to Taj."We are not technical persons so you approach the appropriate authority for getting a clearance," the bench said.

On another application of the ITDC, the court issued notice to the ASI. The corporation is seeking no-traffic zone around Taj and better tourist management steps. 

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