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[Central Vista Project] SC To Take Up Plea Challenging Centre's Decision Of Redevelopment & Renovation Of Lutyens' Delhi On July 29

Sanya Talwar
23 July 2020 7:29 AM GMT
[Central Vista Project] SC To Take Up Plea Challenging Centre

The Supreme Court on Thursday adjourned the plea seeking for a stay against the Central Vista project which sets out to build a new Parliament and other Central Government offices in Lutyens Delhi.

A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari & Sanjiv Khanna took note of the Solicitor General's submission that he shall not be able to account for time to make arguments today.

In light of this, the matter was adjourned, with the parties being directed to file their replies (if any) to the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) in the interim and listed the case for further consideration on July 29.

The Centre's Counter Affidavit submits at the outset that the Central Vista Development/Redevelopment Plan was proposed in order to "meet the present and future needs of space for the Parliament, Ministries and Departments, as well as to provide better public facilities, amenities, parking facilities et al. Citing fire safety, acoustics concern, the Counter refers to the dilapidated condition of the century-year old construction to shed a light on the need for the Redevelopment plan".

The plea contends that 20th March notification of the Government, which supersedes a Public Notice issued by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on 19 December, 2019, is a subjugation of the Rule of Law and judicial protocol as the 2019 notice is currently sub judice before the Supreme Court.

Further stating that the number of seats in Lok Sabha will likely increase substantially after 2026, the Counter states that both the Houses of the Parliament are "packed to capacity and have no space for addition of seats if the Parliament is expanded. The seating arrangements are cramped and cumbersome, there are no desks beyond second row and movement is extremely constrained".

The affidavit states that the project will address not only the space requirement but will also "facilitate to keep and maintain the existing iconic building intact as a symbol of vibrant democracy".

"The new Parliament building to house our nation's bicameral legislature with complete indigenous technology, knowledge and expertise will be a showcase to the rest of the world.This building will be constructed with enhanced structural life, which will last for centuries. Therefore, this project will become a symbol of national pride and inspire citizens to participate in the democratic traditions of India", the counter says.

On 17th July, the Supreme Court had directed the Respondents to file a consolidated Reply in 10 days in the plea challenging the use of land for the Central Vista project. A Bench headed by Justice UU Lalit observed that it was not the time for formalities, but it was time to do substantial justice, when Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde had requested for the issuance of notice in the plea.

The plea seeking a stay on the Project, contends that 20th March notification of the Government, which supersedes a Public Notice issued by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on 19 December, 2019, is a subjugation of the Rule of Law and judicial protocol as the 2019 notice is currently sub judice before the Supreme Court.

With regard to the Government's Rs. 20,000 crore Central Vista project, the DDA had issued a Public Notice inviting objections against proposed changes in land use in December 2019.

This notification was challenged before the Delhi High Court on account of being ultra vires Section 11A of the Delhi Development Act 1957, as well as being beyond the powers of DDA to do so. It was further contested that the plan was not in conformity with the Master Plan of Delhi 2021 (MPD2021) and in violation of "larger laws of the country".

On March 6, a Bench comprising of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari transferred the matter to itself.

On April 30, the Supreme Court refused to stay the project, stating that "during COVID-19, nobody is going to do anything", referring to possible construction on the allocated land.

On 19 June, the Central Government informed the Supreme Court that it could not give an assurance that no work on the ground would be done with respect to the Central Vista project, despite Hegde submitting that administrative clearances were being given, with no objections. The Bench, however, raised the question whether the Apex Court could restrain the authorities from acting as per the law

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