Ground-level changes for Central Vista project will be at officials’ risk, says SC

Supreme Court
A plea was filed in the Supreme Court challenging the Contempt of Courts Act on Saturday. Photo: iStock

The Supreme Court Friday (June 19) said that any change at the ground level made by authorities for the Central Vista project, covering 3-km stretch from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate in Lutyens’ Delhi, will be “at their own risk”.

The apex court made it clear that the fate of the project, which includes several new government buildings and a new Parliament House, will depend on its decision. The top court was hearing a plea against the Delhi High Court order which said the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) was not required to apprise it before notifying changes in the Master Plan to allow the Central Vista project of the central government.

“Any change at the ground level will be at their own risk,” said a bench headed by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar.

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The vehement plea of the petitioner that the ground situation at the site should not be changed as there are several monuments of national heritage which may be removed, did not cut much ice with the court which observed that the project will not be completed within a week.

The bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna, was informed by the petitioner that two notifications have been issued one regarding land use change and the other giving environmental clearance to the project. “We have already said, whatever step are taken, it is on their risk,” the bench observed.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that no norms have been violated in granting the requisite approval for the project. The bench, which posted the matter for hearing on July 7, allowed the petitioner to amend his plea to challenge the recent decisions taken by the authority for the project.

Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for the petitioner, argued that till the next date of hearing no clearance should be granted as all those clearances will also be challenged. The bench asked the petitioner to file his compilation by June 23 and directed the Centre to file its response by July 3.

The division bench of the Delhi High Court had on February 28 stayed an order of its single judge bench which had asked the DDA to approach the court before notifying any change in the Master Plan for going forth with the Centre’s ambitious project to redevelop the Central Vista.

The high court’s stay order on the single judge bench’s February 11 direction had come on the intra-court appeal of the DDA and the Centre. The two petitioners before the high court had opposed the Central Vista project on the ground that it involves a change in land use of the green area adjoining Rajpath and Vijay Chowk for building a new Parliament and government offices.

Gujarat-based architecture firm HCP Designs has won the consultancy bid for the Centre’s ambitious project to redevelop the Central Vista. The revamp, which was announced in September last year, envisages a new triangular Parliament building, with seating capacity for 900 to 1,200 MPs, that is targeted to be constructed by August, 2022 when the country will be celebrating its 75th Independence Day.

The common Central Secretariat is likely to be built by 2024.

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