The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that it will not carry out any construction, demolition or translocation of trees at the site of the Central Vista project in the heart of national capital Delhi till the Supreme Court decides on petitions challenging the project.
The court has, however, allowed the government to go ahead with the ground-breaking ceremony and complete the paperwork related to the project. The top court’s nod comes three days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to lay the foundation stone for a new Parliament building that was proposed as part of the mega project on Thursday, December 10. The building is estimated to cost Rs 971 crore.
A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maaheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna held a special hearing in the case – it has already reserved its verdict on the petitions against the project – and indicated their displeasure to Solicitor General Tushar Mehta at reports that the agencies had started work on the ground before their ruling.
“It should not be a fait accompli presented to the court…. Stop at the foundation laying ceremony. Some deference must be shown to the court,” the bench observed.
The judges indicated that they might pass a stay order if no statement is forthcoming from the Centre.
Solicitor General Mehta took a five minute-break to take instructions from the government and returned with a promise that all physical work being carried out at the site will be put in abeyance till the court’s verdict.
The top court recorded the SG’s statement and said, “We clarify that the authorities will be free to undertake other formal processes, including continuing with the foundation laying ceremony programme on December 10, without altering the site in question in any manner.”
Mehta informed the apex court that construction is yet to commence and trees were being translocated to a nursery. He submitted that no demolition activity is being carried out.
The Court, citing a press release, indicating construction work to commence shortly, said, “The fact that we have not granted stay does not mean that you can do everything.”
Last month on November 5, the Court reserved orders on a batch of 10 petitions filed by Rajeev Suri, Anuj Srivastava and others which challenged the manner in which the Central Vista project got various clearances.
The petitions claimed that the project has been planned by destroying heritage buildings and giving unified building bye-laws a go by.
The redevelopment plan includes a new Parliament building, and a common secretariat for central government offices along with the Prime Minister office and residence, Special Protection Group building and Vice-President Enclave.
Apart from a new parliament building, the Central Vista project involves constructing a common Central Secretariat along with residences of Prime Minister and vice-president, and a revamp of the 3-km-long Rajpath, from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate.
The new triangular parliament complex, often described as the centre-piece of the Central Vista project, will be big enough to house 1,224 MPs lawmakers — 888 in the Lok Sabha and 384 in the Upper House. It is targeted to be built by 2024. The 64,500 sq m new building will replace the 93 years old existing Parliament house.