Central Vista project gets Supreme Court go-ahead

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The Supreme Court, by a 2:1 majority on Tuesday, approved the redevelopment plan for Central Vista that included construction of a new Parliament Building and a common Central Secretariat.

The three-judge bench, however, insisted that the clearance of the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC) will be mandatory and the same should be obtained by the project consultant before proceeding with the development work. The Bench also directed installation of smog guns at the project site as a measure to curb pollution and asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests to consider having smog guns while carrying out any such development work in future.

The majority verdict was given by Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari. The third judge on the bench, Justice Sanjiv Khanna, dissented with regard to change of land use and prior approval of HCC. The dissenting judge even found the environment clearance inadequate.

However, his view would be of little avail as the majority bench gave a blanket approval to the Centre’s decision on change of land use and grant of environment clearance. Even the notice inviting bids and selection of project consultant HCP Designs was held to be fair.

The majority view noted that HCC clearance would only be needed when the actual work commences and not at the initial stage.

On November 5, the court reserved orders on a batch of ten petitions filed by Rajeev Suri, Anuj Srivastava and others which challenged the manner in which the Central Vista project got various clearances.

The petitions claimed that the project has been planned by destroying heritage buildings and giving unified building by-laws a go by.

The redevelopment plan includes a new Parliament building, and a common secretariat for Central government offices along with the Prime Minister office and residence, Special Protection Group building and Vice-President Enclave.

Apart from a new Parliament building, the Central Vista project involves constructing a common Central Secretariat along with residences of Prime Minister and vice-president, and a revamp of the 3-km-long Rajpath, from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate.

The new triangular complex, often described as the centre-piece of the Central Vista project, will be big enough to house 1,224 MPs lawmakers — 888 in the Lok Sabha and 384 in the Upper House. It is targeted to be built by 2024. The 64,500 sq m new building will replace the 93-year-old existing Parliament house.

On December 10, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone for the project after the SC permitted the Centre to go ahead with this function but not undertake any act of construction or demolition at the project site till pronouncement of judgment.

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