Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 5
The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the Central Vista Redevelopment Project that included construction of a new Parliament Building and a common Central Secretariat, with certain conditions.
By a 2:1 majority, a three-judge Bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar held that there were no infirmities in the clearances given for the project, including those with regard to change in the land use, environmental clearances and selection of consultant.
“We cannot be called upon to govern. For, we have no wherewithal or prowess and expertise in that regard,” the majority verdict by Justice Khanwilkar and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari said.
However, it asked the Centre to get necessary prior permission of the Heritage Conservation Committee “before actually starting any development/redevelopment work on the stated plots/structures/precincts governed by the heritage laws, including on plot No. 118, if already not obtained”.
The top court directed the project proponent to set up smog towers of adequate capacity as an integral part of the new Parliament Building Project and use smog guns at the construction site throughout the construction phase.
It also asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests to install smog towers in future projects, particularly in those cities where pollution was an issue.
Justice Sanjiv Khanna – who delivered a dissenting verdict – held the change in land use and environmental clearances given to the project were bad in law, even as he said, “Our interference does not reflect on merits of the stands, but is on account of procedural illegalities and failure to abide the statutory provisions and mandate.”
Last month, the Bench had expressed displeasure over the Centre going ahead with the project without waiting for its verdict. However, it had allowed the foundation laying for the project by PM Modi on December 10.
The top court – which had on November 5 reserved its verdict on PILs challenging various permissions given by authorities for redevelopment of Central Vista in Lutyens’ Delhi – noted that, “The petitioners have not pointed out a single document which formed a part of the process and was not placed in public domain.”
The Central Vista redevelopment plan – which aims to free up 75 acre land in the heart of the capital – involves demolition of around 10 buildings, including Shastri Bhawan, Udyog Bhawan, Krishi Bhawan, Vigyan Bhawan, Vice-President’s House and Lok Nayak Bhawan.
Announced in September last year, it envisages a new triangular Parliament building, with seating capacity for more than 1,200 MPs, expected 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.
Gujarat-based architecture firm HCP Design, Planning and Management Pvt Ltd has won the consultancy bid for the ambitious project to redevelop the Central Vista to construct a common central secretariat complex and a new Parliament building.
The petitioners, including activist Rajeev Suri, had challenged various permissions given to the project by the authorities, including the nod for change of land use and environmental clearance.
The Centre had contended that “Courts cannot strike down policy decisions merely because it feels a better policy decision could have been taken.”
Chronology of project case
Sep, 2019: Central Vista revamp announced; envisages a new triangular Parliament with a seating capacity for 900 to 1,200 MPs and several government buildings. To be constructed by August, 2022 when India celebrates 75th Independence Day.
Feb 11, 2020: Delhi High Court asks DDA to approach the court before notifying any change in the Master Plan before going ahead with the project.
Feb 28: Division bench of Delhi High Court stays the single judge bench order on an appeal by DDA, Centre.
July 17: Supreme Court starts hearing a batch of pleas raising various issues, including environmental clearance and land use, related to the project.
Nov 5: SC reserves verdict on the petitions challenging the project.
Dec 7: SC allows Centre to proceed with foundation stone-laying ceremony for the Central Vista project but restrains it from starting construction.
Dec 10: Prime Minister Narendra Modi lays the foundation stone for the project.
Jan 5, 2021: SC clears decks for construction of the ambitious project. PTI
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