[Breaking] Supreme Court to deliver judgment tomorrow in challenge to Central Vista redevelopment

The Central Vista area in Lutyen’s Delhi houses iconic buildings like the Parliament House, Rashtrapati Bhavan, the North and South Block buildings and the India Gate.
[Breaking] Supreme Court to deliver judgment tomorrow  in challenge to Central Vista redevelopment
Central Vista, Supreme Court

The Supreme Court will deliver its judgment tomorrow in a batch of petitions challenging the redevelopment of New Delhi's Central Vista area.

The judgment will be rendered by a three-judge Bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna.

As per the details available on the Supreme Court website, there will be two separate opinions, one by Justice Khanwilkar and the other by Justice Khanna.

The Bench had reserved its judgment in the matter on November 5, 2020.

Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, AM khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna
Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, AM khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna

The Central government is proposing redevelopment of the Central Vista area by constructing a new Parliament house, a new residential complex that will house the Prime Minister and the Vice President along with several new office buildings and Central Secretariat to accommodates ministry offices.

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The petitioners before the Supreme Court challenged a notification issued by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on December 21, 2019 regarding changes in land use for the redevelopment.

One of the petitioners, Rajeev Suri assailed the alterations envisaged by the Centre arguing that it involves changes to land use and standards of population density and that the DDA is not vested with the requisite power to bring about such changes. He submitted that the power for bringing about such changes, if at all, lies with the central government.

Another petitioner, Lt. Col (Retd. ) Anuj Srivastava, challenged the public hearings held to raise objections to the exercise, arguing that they were a mere formality devoid of any meaningful consequence.

An intervenor, Meena Gupta, former Secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forests, filed an intervention application in the pending case highlighting environmental concerns due to the redevelopment.

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The Central government had defended the project claiming that construction of a new Parliament building and Central Secretariat has become an absolute necessity due to the stress on the present ones.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said that the current Parliament building, which was opened in 1927, does not adhere to fire safety norms, has a serious space crunch, and is not earthquake-proof.

"There is an imminent need to have a new Parliament building. The current building was built in 1927 prior to independence and was intended to house the legislative council and not a bicameral legislature we have today. The building does not conform to fire safety norms and water and sewer lines are also haphazard which is damaging the heritage nature of the building. Both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are packed. When joint sessions are held, members sit on plastic chairs diminishing the dignity of the House," SG Mehta had told the Court.
Central Vista, Supreme Court
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Once there is an increase in the number of seats of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha after the fresh census to be conducted next year, the building will be under stress, Mehta added. He also cited security concerns, highlighting the 2001 Parliament attack.

Regarding construction of new Central Secretariat, the Centre underscored the need to bring all important ministry offices under one single building.

“We have to run around the city to go to different ministries, increasing traffic and pollution. The policy decision is that all Central ministries have to be at one place and that place has to be one which has historical significance", Mehta contended.

It was also the government's argument that all necessary statutory approvals including environmental clearances were in place and the project cannot be scrapped merely because the petitioners felt a better process or method could have been adopted.

Unless there was any violation of Constitutional or legal provisions, the court should refrain from scrapping the project and there was no occasion warranting judicial interference in the present case, Mehta submitted.

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