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The Supreme Court today refused to stay the Central Vista redevelopment project undertaken by the Government of India, observing that nobody would do anything during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde was hearing a petition by Rajeev Suri through Advocate Shikhil Suri, seeking to quash the Central government's March 20 notification notifying a change in land use.
During the course of the hearing, the CJI Bobde remarked,
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta added,
During the course of hearing, CJI Bobde noted that a similar plea was pending in the High Court and that "duplicate petitions" be avoided.
Advocate appearing for petitioner sought to withdraw the plea before SC craving liberty to approach the High Court.
Suri had earlier approached the Delhi High Court claiming that the DDA has relied upon 2001 Zonal Development Plan in respect of the proposed changes. His plea contended that the alterations which are proposed will involve the change of land-use and standards of population density.
On February 13, 2020, Justice Rajiv Shakdher of Delhi HC issued notices to the Centre and the DDA and sought their response within two weeks. The court also directed the DDA to approach it before taking a decision to notify the proposed changes in Master Plan Delhi 2020-21.
On March 20, the Centre had notified the change in land use for the Rs 20,000 Crore Central Vista redevelopment project. This notification pertained to 86 acres of land in Central Delhi that houses structures like Rashtrapati Bhavan and the Parliament House, among others.
The notification by the Centre for a change in land use came at a time when the challenge to the redevelopment plan itself was pending before the Supreme Court.
It is the petitioner's case that the notification is a "brash" move and will deprive the citizens, and particularly the residents of Delhi, of their rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
This new notification, the petitioner asserts, is in contravention of the Master Plan 2021. The Master Plan of Delhi 2021 (MPD 2021) seeks to decentralize government offices in the NCR region, whereby no new Central government or Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) offices would be located in NCT of Delhi, as provided in Chapter 8 of the Plan.
A stay on the project was urged on the ground that activities such as demolishing of buildings, cutting of trees, and excavation of land that might be irreversible at a later date.
The two judge bench has dismissed the plea as withdrawn and that the case before the Delhi High Court will go on.