SC Reserves Verdict on Pleas Raising Questions Over Central Vista Project

The Supreme Court Thursday reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas which have raised questions over the Centre’s ambitious Central Vista project, which covers three-km stretch from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate in Lutyens’ Delhi. A bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar asked the parties to file additional written notes in the matter by November 16. Heard counsel for the parties at length. Hearing concluded. Judgment reserved. Parties are free to file additional written notes by November 16, said the bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna.

The revamp, which was announced in September last year, envisages a new triangular Parliament building, with seating capacity for 900 to 1,200 MPs, that is targeted to be constructed by August, 2022 when the country will be celebrating its 75th Independence Day. The common Central Secretariat is likely to be built by 2024. Opposing the pleas which have raised questions over several aspects including the environmental clearance (EC) granted to the project, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had argued in the top court that the project would save money which is paid as rent for housing Central government ministries in the national capital.

Mehta had submitted that the decision to have a new parliament building has not been taken in a haste and no law or norms have been violated in any manner for the project. The Centre had also said there was no arbitrariness or favouritism in selecting consultant for the project and the argument that government could have adopted a better process cannot be a ground to scrap the project.

Gujarat-based architecture firm HCP Designs has won the consultancy bid for the project to redevelop the Central Vista. The top court is hearing several pleas on the issue, including the one filed by activist Rajeev Suri, against various permissions given to the project by the authorities including the nod to change of land use.

Earlier, the apex court had said that any change at the ground level made by authorities for the Central Vista project will be “at their own risk”. It had made it clear that the fate of the project, which includes several new government buildings and a new Parliament House, will depend on its decision.

The pleas have also challenged the grant of a no-objection certificate by the Central Vista Committee (CVC) and also the environmental clearances for the construction of a new parliament house building. One of the pleas was filed against a Delhi High Court order which had said the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) was not required to apprise it before notifying changes in the Master Plan to allow the Central Vista project. The division bench of the Delhi High Court had on February 28 stayed an order of its single judge bench which had asked the DDA to approach the court before notifying any change in the Master Plan for going forth with the Centre’s ambitious project to redevelop the Central Vista.

The high court’s stay order on the single judge bench’s February 11 direction had come on the intra-court appeal of the DDA and the Centre. The petitioners before the high court had opposed the Central Vista project on the ground that it involves a change in land use of the green area adjoining Rajpath and Vijay Chowk for building new Parliament and government offices.

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