The redevelopment of New Delhi’s Central Vista Project has been given nod by SC bench after rejecting a batch of petitions which challenged the scheme for alleged violation of land use and environmental norms.
The court held that the exercise of Delhi Development Authority Act and the grant of environmental clearances by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change was valid.
The Court passed the order of Central Vista Project by a 2:1 majority and Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari observed, “Selection and appointment of environmental consultant in the case is held to be just and proper. Modifications regarding change in land use stand confirmed.
Justice Sanjiv Khanna dissented by saying that even though the award of the Central Vista Project cannot be faulted with, prior approval of the heritage committee was required when it came to change in land use and read, “I have agreed with brother judge, Justice Khanwilkar on notice inviting bid and award of project. However, on the question of grant of change of land use, I have a different opinion. I have held that the same was bad in law. There was no prior approval of Heritage Conservation Committee and thus matter is remitted back for public hearing. On the environmental clearance aspect, it was a non speaking order.”
The Central Vista Development/Redevelopment Plan was initiated to meet the present and future needs of space for the Parliament, Ministries and Departments and to provide better public facilities, amenities, parking facilities et al. Highlighting the fire safety issue and acoustics concern. It was acknowledged that the Central Vista Project will not only work on the space requirement but also “facilitate to keep and maintain the existing iconic building intact as a symbol of a vibrant democracy”.
“The new Parliament building to house our nation’s bicameral legislature with complete indigenous technology, knowledge and expertise will be a showcase to the rest of the world. This building will be constructed with enhanced structural life, which will last for centuries. Therefore, this project will become a symbol of national pride and inspire citizens to participate in the democratic traditions of India.”
The petitioners also challenged a notification issued by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on December 21, 2019 regarding changes in land use for the redevelopment and it has no requisite power for alterations envisaged by the Centre. He submitted that the power for bringing about such changes lies with the Central government.
Another petitioner, challenged the public hearings held to raise objections to the exercise, arguing that they were a mere formality devoid of any meaningful consequence.
A former Secretary of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, Meena Gupta, filed an intervention application in the pending case highlighting environmental concerns due to the redevelopment of Central Vista Project.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said that the current Parliament building does not adhere to fire safety norms with serious space crunch. It is not earthe quake safe and he contended that “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”.
Tushar Mehta submitted that the Court should refrain from scrapping the Central Vista Project and there was no occasion to warrant judicial interference in the present case unless there was any violation of Constitutional or legal provisions.