Supreme Court clears redevelopment plan for Central Vista project

"We hold that the exercise of the Central Government under DDA Act is legal and valid and the impugned notification stands confirmed- Justice Khanwilkar

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday have a green signal to the Central Vista Redevelopment Project that included construction of a new Parliament Building and a common Central Secretariat, with certain riders.

By a 2:1 majority, a three-judge Bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar cleared the project

for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid down the foundation last month.

Justice Khanwilkar and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari held that there were no infirmities in the clearances given for the project, including with regard to change in the land use and environmental clearances.

“We hold that the exercise of the Central Government under DDA Act is legal and valid and the impugned notification stands confirmed. Recommendation by Environmental Committee is just and legal and we uphold the same,” Justice Khanwilkar said.

However, it said the project will have to get clearances from Heritage Conservation Committee.

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 — also asked the project proponent to set up smog towers as being integral part of new parliament building project.

It 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 — said the change in land use and environmental clearances given to the project were “bad in law”.

Justice Khanna, however, agreed with the majority on the aspect of notice inviting bid for the project, award of the contract and order of urban commission.

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, have challenged various permissions given to the project by the authorities, including the nod for change of land use. They have questioned the project over environmental clearance granted to the project and the historical value of the existing building.

Asserting that there was no element of arbitrariness or favouritism in selection of the consultant for the project, the Centre has defended the project, saying it would “save money” paid as rent for housing Central government ministries in the national capital.

The Centre had contended that “Courts cannot strike down policy decisions merely because it feels a better policy decision could have been taken.”

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.

“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,” it had said.

“Just because there is no stay it does not mean that you (Centre) can go ahead with everything”, said the Bench that had on April 30 refused to stay the project.

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