Supreme Court on Tuesday, has allowed the Centre government to go ahead with the redevelopment of the Central Vista project in a 2:1 verdict. The apex court bench upheld that the exercise of power under Delhi Development Authority Act by Centre is ‘just and valid’.
Granting a green signal to the project which aims at redeveloping the Parliament and other government offices around it, the bench upheld the notification of change in land use and recommendations made by the Environment Ministry.
The project is allowed with some riders. The bench has directed the Centre to set up a smog tower and use anti-smoke guns at the construction side for the Central Vista Project.
Justice Khanwilkar and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari voted in favour of the redevelopment project while Justice Sanjiv Khanna disagreed with the judgment. The top court announced the verdict while hearing a batch of petitions filed against the alleged violation of land use and environmental norms.
“The exercise of power under the DDA Act is just and valid. The recommendations of environmental clearance by the ministry of environment are just, valid, and proper and we uphold the same,” said Justice AM Khanwilkar.
“Selection and appointment of environmental consultant in the case is held to be just and proper. Modifications regarding change in land use stand confirmed,” stated the majority judgment.
While Justice Sanjiv Khanna who disagreed with the change of land use, proposed his opinion, “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.”
Centre government has proposed the Central Vista project which aims at constructing a new Parliament house, a new residential complex (that will house the Prime Minister and the Vice-President), new office buildings and a Central Secretariat to accommodate Ministry offices.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for Centre defended the Central Vista project against the batch of petitions filed against notification issued by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on December 21, 2019 regarding changes in land use for the redevelopment. He submitted that this construction of a new Parliament building and Central Secretariat has become the absolute necessity.
SG Mehta told the court, “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.”
He further stated that the 1927 built Parliament building does not adhere to fire safety norms, has a serious space crunch, and is not earthquake-proof.
Mehta also mentioned that the building will be under stress if there will be an increase in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha seats after the fresh census which is going to be conducted next year. He also drew attention towards the 2001 Parliament attack.
He further added, “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.”
In November 2020, the top court had reserved the order and then on December 7, Supreme Court allowed the Centre government to go ahead with the foundation stone laying ceremony after the government assured that no construction or demolition work will commence on the land till the top court announce the final verdict.