CBI books four ASI officials for illegal NOCs

‘They allowed constructions in prohibited areas’

The Central Bureau of Investigation has booked four Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officials for allegedly granting no-objection certificates to Riddhi Siddhi Enterprises for constructions in the regulated/prohibited areas of Kuki Biwiki Masjid and Muqbara (tomb) in Ahmedabad, which have been classified as national monuments.

Among those named as accused are Rameshbhai Parmar, partner in the Riddhi Siddhi Enterprises; the then Superintending Archaeologist of the Vadodara circle, Shivananda V. Rao; Ravi Kumar Gautam, then Administrative Officer with the National Monuments Authority (NMA) under the ASI; Conservation Assistant Rajesh Johri; then Senior Conservation Assistant Arifali Agariya; and one Kanubhai Patel.

The agency had instituted a preliminary enquiry into the allegations about a year ago, following a complaint from the NMA Member Secretary. The NMA, constituted under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, has the mandate to grant NOCs for undertaking construction by any person in the regulated areas of the centrally protected monuments.

‘Guidelines violated’

It was alleged that construction was allowed in the regulated/prohibited areas in violation of the guidelines and that authenticity of the papers provided with respect to the previous NOCs and extensions was also under suspicion. The related files could not be traced.

According to the First Information Report, in January 2006, Rustam Mills & Industries Limited, partner of Riddhi Siddhi Enterprises, had applied for an NOC for the reconstruction of four blocks of industrial sheds. The office of Superintending Archaeologist, Vadodara, allowed it as the proposed construction was in the regulated area.

Riddhi Siddhi Enterprises then applied for reconstruction of five blocks of a commercial building in April 2006.

The NOC was refused, after which it requested that its representation be forwarded to the ASI Director-General, who approved it with certain conditions.

In 2007, the company handed over some part of the land falling in the prohibited area to the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.

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