SC Clears Redevelopment Plan for Central Vista With 2:1 Verdict
Justice AM Khanwilkar said the judgment he was pronouncing is in majority by himself and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday, 5 January, cleared the redevelopment plan for Central Vista by majority.
Justice AM Khanwilkar said the judgment he was pronouncing is in majority by himself and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, while Justice Sanjiv Khanna will pronounce a separate judgment.
The court said there was no infirmity in the grant of approval by the Central Vista Committee or the Heritage Conversation Committee.
"We hold that the exercise of the central government under the DDA Act is legal and valid, and the impugned notification stands confirmed. The recommendations of environmental clearance by the Ministry of Environment is just, valid and proper. We uphold the same," Justice Khanwilkar was quoted as saying.
The Bench had reserved its judgment in the matter on 5 November 2020.
Justice Khanna Differs With Majority View
The apex court also directed the proponent of the project to install smog towers and use anti-smog guns at all construction sites, news agency PTI reported.
Meanwhile, Justice Sanjiv Khanna differed with the majority view on the grant of environmental clearance and change in land use.
"On the question of grant of change of land use, I have a different opinion. There was no prior approval of heritage conservation committee and thus matter remitted back for public hearing. On the environmental clearance aspect, it was a non-speaking order [sic]," Justice Khanna was quoted as saying.
But he reportedly said that he agreed on the issue of award of the project and the order of the urban commission.
Criticisms of the Judgment
Hours after the judgment, the opposition criticised the redevelopment project, calling it an instance of “misplaced priorities” of the central government.
In a series of tweets, national spokesperson of the Congress party Randeep Singh Surjewala wrote: “The ₹13,450 crore Central Vista Project is not a legalistic issue but a case of ‘misplaced priorities’ of a ‘whimsical autocrat’ seeking to etch his name in the annals of history with cement & mortar.”
He added, “Ironical that in times of coronavirus pandemic & economic recession, Delhi has ₹14,000 crore for Central Vista & ₹8,000 crore for buying aircrafts for PM.”
Former Cabinet Minister Anand Sharma also took to Twitter, expressing his disagreement with the judgment. He wrote, “Saddened by Supreme Court endorsement of government 's misplaced priorities during pandemic and clearing the Central Vista project – an unnecessary and colossal waste of public money.”
Lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan hailed Justice Khanna’s dissent but wrote, “No surprise, given its recent track record, that the SC upholds the 14,000 crore Central Vista redevelopment project!”
Challenges To The Central Vista Project
The central government has proposed a redevelopment of the Central Vista area. The proposal includes the construction of a new Parliament house, a new residential complex that will house the prime minister and the vice president, as well as several new office buildings and Central Secretariat to accommodate ministry offices.
The project had been challenged on various fronts by petitioners, including the changes in land use and environmental concerns.
‘Govt Sensitive to Environmental Concerns, Will Adhere to Highest Standards’
Welcoming the Apex Court's judgment, Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs, Hardeep Singh Puri, on Tuesday tweeted, "Central Government has always been sensitive to environmental concerns and will continue to adhere to the highest standards during the period of construction."
"Delhi is on course to becoming a World Class capital city and in the first step by the time nation completes 75 years of its Independence in 2022 a new Parliament building will be ready reflecting the aspirations of new India [sic]," he posted.
(With inputs from Bar and Bench, LiveLaw and PTI.)
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