A three-member bench panel of the Supreme Court has upheld BJP-led central government’s construction of the Central Vista project, and the government’s plan to build a new parliament in Lutyens’ Delhi. The bench — comprising of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari, and Sanjiv Khanna — had pronounced the verdict thus dismissing a slew of petitions challenging the project, claiming land and environmental norms violations.
The verdict began with Justice Khanwilkar proclaiming that under the Delhi Development Act, the Centre’s venture is “legal and valid” and that there is no failure in the approval granted by the Central Vista Committee and Heritage Conservation Committee.
Concerning the plea against the recommendations of the Environmental Committee, the SC bench held that they were “just and legal”. Moreover, the SC directed the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to install smog towers in future projects especially in places where it is a matter of importance.
However, while agreeing with the award of the project, Justice Sanjiv Khanna disagreed on the matter of the Heritage Conservation Committee. He claimed that the issue had to be returned to public hearing, as there was no prior approval of the Heritage Conservation Committee. “I have agreed on the aspect of notice inviting bid, award and order of Urban Commission with the opinion of respected Justice Khanwilkar. However, on the aspect of change of land use, I have held that the same was initiated as being bad in law,” he added.
Concerning the need for the project, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said, “The current building was built in 1927 before 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 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 added that following the increase in the number of members following the latest census, the building would be further stressed. Mehta added that there is a dire need to bring all the ministries together, as travelling from one office to another is taxing to the environment as well as the traffic. Moreover, he claimed that the new building would also offer more security as compared to the current one, citing the 2001 attack on the parliament.
In September 2019, the renovation announcement was made envisaging a new triangular Parliament building with a seating capacity of 900 to 1,200 MPs. It is predicted that the construction will be completed by August 2022, when the Country will be celebrating its 75th Independence Day. The common Central Secretariat is targeted to be built by 2024.
On December 10, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone for the new Parliament building. It is expected to be finished at Rs 971 crore by 2022, said Lok Sabha Speaker on Saturday. The Supreme Court said the Centre could go ahead with the paperwork in the meantime. The Apex Court had reserved its verdict on November 5 following a batch of petitions, which have raised questions over the Central Vista project.
The Centre’s ambitious project covers around three km stretch between Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate in Lutyens’ Delhi. Earlier, the solicitor general had argued that the project will enable the government to ‘save money,’ which is paid as rent to accommodate central government ministries in New Delhi. He even stressed that the decision for a new Parliament building has not been taken in a rush and no norms or law have been violated in any way. The Centre had also said that there was no irrationality while deciding on the consultant for the project. HCP Designs, a Gujarat-based architecture firm has won the consultancy bid for the Central Vista project.
Among the pleas filed in Supreme Court on the issue includes one filed by activist Rajeev Suri, against certain permissions given to the authorities including the nod to change of land use.