Friday, February 3, 2023

Central Vista: SC dismisses plea challenging change in land use for building VP, PM residences

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition challenging the change of the land use of Plot 1 in the Central Vista from “recreational” to “residential” to build the new official residences for the Vice President and the Prime Minister. The bench observed that land use change was a matter of policy not open to judicial review, especially when the petitioner has not alleged any illegality or mala fides.

The bench of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice C.T. Ravikumar dismissed the petition filed by Rajeev Suri, who had unsuccessfully challenged the notifications for the Central Vista Project earlier. 

The bench observed that the petitioner has not argued that the authorities don’t have the power to introduce such change. The only argument is that in the past since the plot had been a recreational ground, it should be retained as such and at least similar area should have been provided elsewhere for the same purpose.

“This cannot be the scope of judicial review. It is the prerogative of the authority concerned and the change effected in the development plan in one sense is a matter of policy. It is not the case of the petitioner that the change has been made for mala fide reasons. We find no reason to examine the matter further and want to put an end to the matter by dismissing the petition summarily,” the bench observed further.

Shiv Shikhil Suri, the counsel for the petitioner, submitted,

“That the change of open green area to residential area is against public interest. About 6 acres of green area is proposed to be taken over. The prayer is to protect the green areas and alternate sites should be explored by the authorities.”

To this, Justice Khanwilkar asked if the people’s opinion should be taken on where to build the Vice President’s house.

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The judge then asked the petitioner to show a judgment that said a plot once described recreational area cannot be changed at all. “It is a matter of policy. Where else can be the residence of President, Vice President be located?” Justice Khanwilkar asked.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said there should be an end to this.

The Centre said in its affidavit said the said plot has never been opened to the public and is currently being used as Government Offices of the Ministry of Defence for almost 90 years now and no recreational activity exists as per actual ground conditions while denying the petitioner’s arguments.

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