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Central Vista - North & South Blocks Proposed To Be Converted Into 'National Museums' : Centre Tells Supreme Court

Srishti Ojha
29 Oct 2021 11:06 AM GMT
Central Vista - North & South Blocks Proposed To Be Converted Into National Museums : Centre Tells Supreme Court
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The centre has refuted allegations of conversion of recreational plot saying that the plot in question as never open to general public.

The Central Government has informed the Supreme Court that as per the Central Vista Redevelopment project, the North and South Blocks are proposed to be converted into national museums.The Centre further submitted that all the Central Government Ministries will be relocated in the Common Central Secretariat buildings which are being developed on two sides of the Rajpath on the current...

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The Central Government has informed the Supreme Court that as per the Central Vista Redevelopment project, the North and South Blocks are proposed to be converted into national museums.

The Centre further submitted that all the Central Government Ministries will be relocated in the Common Central Secretariat buildings which are being developed on two sides of the Rajpath on the current footprints of different buildings.

The Centre was responding through an affidavit to a petition which challenged a notification for the change in land use of Plot 1. The petitioner Rajeev Suri argued that the notification allowed the conversion of 'recreational plot' into 'residential plot'.  The petitioner has sought judicial scrutiny arguing that  the subject Plot 1 takes over open spaces of a Children's Recreational Park and Bus Terminal.

Refuting these arguments as "misconceived" and praying for dismissal of the petition with costs, the Centre said that the plot in question has never been opened to the public and is currently being used as Government Offices of the Ministry of Defence for almost 90 years now and no recreational activity (neighbourhood play area) exists as per actual ground conditions in the plot.

The reply has been filed through a consolidated affidavit before the Top Court submitted on behalf of the Respondents in the case, including the Union of India through Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), the Central Public Works Department and the Delhi Development Authority.

The affidavit has averred that the place has not ever been open for the general public to utilise it for any public recreational purposes.

It has also been submitted that there is no residing population or residential colony in the said vicinity and only the office premises of Ministry of Defence are functioning in the said area.

"Neighbourhood play area' is, was not in existing [nor is required], and is not therefore required to be in de-jure mentioned in the Master Plan." the affidavit states. 

The Respondents have submitted that considering the overall public purpose of the Central Vista and overall vision behind the same, they have compensated and in fact, increased various public areas for the purpose of Recreation and added numerous facilities in the overall Master Plan of Central Vista Project which shall be public amenities, over and above the existing ones, for the larger benefit of the public.

The Respondents have submitted that they have suo moto created a lot of space for recreational purposes.

"It is submitted that the Respondents are cognizant of the public nature of the projects and specifically seek to add various public facilities to the larger vision plan and has suo moto created a lot of space for recreational purposes. It is submitted that there are both qualitative and quantitative increase in public spaces in larger vision." the affidavit states.

As an example, the affidavit stated that the project proposes to convert North and South Blocks into National Museums.

"For example, North and South Blocks which cover nearly 27 acres and are proposed to be converted into National Museums showcasing 'India in making' prehistoric to present date. The museums will be open to the public at large and serve important public purposes. In addition to the same, nearly 118 Hectare of land on the Eastern and Western Bank of River Yamuna near Akshardham Temple on Eastern bank and near IP Thermal Power Station on Western Bank is being developed as AMRUT Biodiversity Park to commemorate 75 years of India's Independence fulfilling the recreational purpose aspirations of public at large", the affidavit stated.

Responding to petitioner's contention that there will be a loss of public recreational area, the affidavit has unequivocally stated that the Central Vista Development/ Redevelopment Master Plan has been proposed to meet the present and future needs of space for the Parliament and Ministries.

Furthe,r the project will provide world class public space for interactions, recreation, better public facilities, amenities, parking, vending areas, facilities for conduct of national festivals and to infuse synergy and efficiency by integration of all the buildings of Common Central

The Respondents have submitted that the change of land use has been approved by the Delhi Development Authority taking a holistic view and complying with MPD-2021 provisions.

Further it has been submitted that the change of land use has been approved without compromising with green area, built heritage, transport infrastructure, better utilisation of the spaces and fully complying with the provisions of the Delhi Development Authority Act, 1957 and the MPD-2021.

Calling the Writ Petition writ petition 'misconceived' the respondents have urged the Court to dismiss it with cost.

Supreme Court on Friday adjourned to 16th November a plea filed challenging Central Government's notification proposing modification in Zonal Development

A Bench comprising Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice CT Ravikumar adjourned the matter after being informed that a reply affidavit has been filed online. 

Since the Bench hadn't received the affidavit, it directed a Copy of the reply to be kept in paper book. The matter will be heard next on November 16th. 

The petitioner Rajeev Suri had earlier filed a petition challenging the Central Vista project plan, which was dismissed by the Supreme Court with 2:1 majority in January this year.

Find details of the petition here

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