A batch of petitions had challenged the plan for demolition of old structures and new construction, including a new Parliament building in approximately 86 acres of land in the heart of the national capital.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave its nod to the central vista redevelopment project in a 2:1 verdict. A batch of petitions had challenged the plan for demolition of old structures and new construction, including a new Parliament building in approximately 86 acres of land in the heart of the national capital.
What was under challenge?
Broadly, it was the change in land use, and the manner and procedure adopted for making the changes in the central vista precincts. The petitioners argued that there were irregularities in the process that involved the approval of the design, clearance on monetary allocations, and the tendering processes, other regulatory clearances on environment and from local municipal bodies.
What has the court held?
In a 2:1 majority verdict, the court has held that there are no infirmities in the approvals granted. Justices A M Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari held that the central government’s change of land use for the project in the Master Plan of Delhi 2021 is also a lawful exercise of its powers.
What did the petitioners argue?
The petition focused on the following aspects of the matter.
‘No Objection’ by the Central Vista Committee (CVC): The petitioners had challenged the composition of the CVC and, therefore, all the approvals granted by the body. They argued that the CVC was set up to rush the approvals, and that the officials who were proponents of the central vista project were also entrusted with the CVC and there was an apparent conflict of interest.
“Approval” by the Delhi Urban Art Commission (DUAC) as per the DUAC Act, 1973: The petitioners had argued that the consultation with DUAC had to be completed at the plan conception stage itself. They argued that in the absence of comprehensive consultation, the approvals were granted without proper application of mind.
However, the government has stated that considering different stages for different components of the project, the DUAC’s approval on the Parliament project has been obtained, whereas the approval for rest of the central vista precincts shall be taken as and when the development activity thereat is proposed in future.
“Prior approval” by the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC): The petitioners had argued that the government failed to consult the Heritage Conservation Committee, which is an expert body in matters involving heritage structures. The committee ought to have been consulted right from the stage of the conception of the project, even before the design for the project is agreed upon, they argued.
Environmental clearance: The petitioners argued that the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) had no mandate to grant clearances, because the central vista project was multi-sectoral and that the body had no expertise to deal with such a project since the sectoral impact was not presented to the EAC.
However, the court held that the case did not involve multi-sectoral components, and is a “simpliciter construction project”. It also said that the petitioners had outrightly failed to substantiate their apprehensions by placing material on record to the contrary.
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