Friday, June 9, 2023

Supreme Court approves Central Vista project, Justice Sanjiv Khanna dissents on land use change (Read judgment)

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday approved the Central Vista re-development project while stating the exercise of power under the Delhi Development Authority Act is valid and the recommendations of the environmental clearance by the Ministry of Environment is just and proper.

By a 2:1 majority, the Supreme Court upheld the notification issued by the Ministry and gave green signal to the Central Vista Project. 

A three-judge bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna had previously reserved their verdict on a batch of pleas that had raised questions over the Centre’s ambitious Central Vista project, which stretches over three kilometres from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate in Lutyens’ Delhi.

On Tuesday, Justice Khanwilkar said the judgment which he is going to pronounce is in majority with Justice Maheshwari. He said the exercise of power by the Centre is just and proper. The modifications in change in land use of the Master Plan 2020-2021 including notifications of March stand confirmed. The recommendations of the environmental clearance by the Ministry of Environment is proper.

Justice Khanwilkar said the project proponents will set up smog towers as an integral part of the Central Vista project. Use environment friendly construction material. Environment ministry to pass similar directions for any future projects.

Justice Sanjiv Khanna has pronounced his separate judgment. He agreed on the aspect of notice inviting bid, award and order of urban commission with the opinion of the Justice Khanwilkar. But he held that the change of land use was bad in law and disagreed on that part for two reasons, non-disclosure for public participation and no prior approval of the Heritage Conservation Committee. 

Earlier, the court had asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to take instructions from the Centre to ensure no construction at the project site. SG Mehta, on instructions, undertook on behalf of the Centre that there won’t be any construction, demolition or shifting of trees in the Central Vista till the Supreme Court delivered its judgment.

The Supreme Court had previously issued notice to the government and sought answers to the questions and allegations raised in the petitions filed accusing the government of illegally changing the land-use rules for the proposed Central Vista project at a place next to Rajpath. Under this project, 10 buildings are to be built for all the ministries, secretariat, and many other offices including Parliament House.

SG Tushar Mehta had previously submitted before the court that the plan and construction of Central Vista is not a bargain of losses or a waste of the public exchequer, but through this, due to the proper utilisation of funds, it will save Rs 1,500 crore every year. It will be an eco-friendly building, natural energy will be used as well as offices running in rented buildings of various ministries will also come in their official building on Central Vista. The current building of Parliament is over a hundred years old. It is evident that according to the current era, safety measures have been taken only with jugaad technology. The strength of the building has also been affected by the timestamps. The people who have challenged this project here talk about the lack of space in the Parliament, the lack of security arrangements, and the lapse in the system. In such a situation, there is no need to assess and study this project from any independent institute or agency.

The Apex Court in June 2020 had heard a plea filed by environmentalist Rajeev Suri seeking a stay on the Central Vista Project pertaining to construction of a new Parliament building and other government buildings in Lutyens’ Delhi. The three-judge bench had clarified that all the proceedings regarding the Central Vista Development Project will be considered together.

Also Read: Central Vista: Supreme Court allows foundation stone ceremony, pulls up Centre for going ahead without court ruling

Separate judgment by Justice Sanjiv Khanna: “Since I have reservations with the opinion expressed by my
esteemed brother A.M. Khanwilkar, J. on the aspects of public
participation on interpretation of the statutory provisions, failure to
take prior approval of the Heritage Conservation Committee and
the order passed by the Expert Appraisal Committee, I have penned
down a separate dissenting judgment. However, on the aspects of
Notice inviting Bid, award of consultancy and the order of the Urban
Arts Commission, as a standalone and independent order, I
respectfully agree with the final conclusions in the judgment
authored by respected brother A.M. Khanwilkar J.”

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