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Breaking- Supreme Court Upholds Centre's Plan For The Central Vista Project by 2:1 Majority, Justice Khanna Dissents

Radhika Roy & Sanya Talwar
5 Jan 2021 5:18 AM GMT
Breaking- Supreme Court Upholds Centres Plan For The Central Vista Project by 2:1 Majority, Justice Khanna Dissents
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The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the Central Government's plan for construction of the Central Vista project and the government's proposal to construct a new Parliament in Lutyen's Delhi.

A Bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna pronounced the judgement, with Justices Khanwilkar and Maheshwari forming the majority, and with Justice Khanna pronouncing...

The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the Central Government's plan for construction of the Central Vista project and the government's proposal to construct a new Parliament in Lutyen's Delhi.



A Bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna pronounced the judgement, with Justices Khanwilkar and Maheshwari forming the majority, and with Justice Khanna pronouncing a separate judgement. 



Summary of Judgment 

(i) We hold that there is no infirmity in the grant of:


(a) "No Objection" by the Central Vista Committee (CVC);

 (b)  "Approval" by the Delhi Urban Art Commission (DUAC) as per the DUAC Act, 1973; and 


 (c)  "Prior approval" by the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC) under clause 1.12 of the Building Byelaws for Delhi, 2016. 

 (ii)  We further hold that the exercise of power by the Central Government under Section 11A(2) of the DDA Act, 1957 is just and proper and thus the modifications regarding change in land use of plot Nos. 2 to 8 in the Master Plan of Delhi, 2021/Zonal Development Plan for Zone-D and Zone-C vide impugned notification dated 20.3.2020 stands confirmed. 


 (iii)  The recommendation of Environmental Clearance (EC) by Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) and grant thereof by MoEF is just, proper and in accordance with law including the 2006 Notification. We uphold the same along with appropriate directions therein 
to ensure that the highlighted mitigating measures are followed by the project proponent in their letter and spirit.

 (iv)  The project proponent may set up smog tower(s) of adequate capacity, as being integral part of the new Parliament building project; and additionally, use smog guns at the construction site throughout the construction phase is in progress on the site. 


(v)  We also call upon the respondent MoEF to consider issuing similar general directions regarding installation of adequate capacity of smog tower(s) as integral part in all future major development projects whilst granting development permissions, particularly in cities with bad track record of air quality - be it relating to Government buildings, townships or other private projects of similar scale and magnitude, including to use smog guns during the construction activity of the Project is in progress. 


(vi)  The stage of prior permission under clause 1.3 of the Building Bye Laws of the Heritage Conservation 
Committee (HCC), is the stage of actual 
development/redevelopment etc. work is to commence and not the incipient stage of planning and formalisation of the Project. Accordingly, the respondents shall obtain aforementioned prior permission of the designated Authority before actually starting any development/redevelopment work on the stated plots/structures/precincts governed by the heritage laws including on plot No. 118, if already not obtained.

(vii) The selection/appointment of Consultant, in light of the limited examination warranted in this case, is held to be just and proper.

JUSTICE SANJIV KHANNA'S OPINION

Justice Sanjiv Khanna rendered a separate judgment wherein, while agreeing with the issue of award of the project, he noted that the matter had to be remitted back to public hearing as there was no prior approval of the Heritage Conservation Committee,

Further, on the Environmental Clearance aspect, it was noted that it was a non-speaking order.



"I have agreed on the aspect of notice inviting bid, award and order of Urban Commission with the opinion of respected Brother Justice Khanwilkar. However, on the aspect of change of land use, I have held that the same was initiated as being bad in law". 



Justice Khanna proceeded to state that it was bad in law as – i. there had been no disclosure for public participation, and ii. there was no prior approval of the Heritage Conservation Committee. (HCC)

Accordingly, Justice Khanna remitted the matter to the HCC.

On December 7, the Supreme Court had allowed the Central Government to conduct the Foundation Ceremony of the Central Vista project without altering the status of the site in any manner. The Top Court had slammed the Union for going ahead with the construction works of the project even when the judgment on the pleas was awaited. 


Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta undertook that no construction or demolition of structures or cutting down of trees would take place. Accordingly, the Court ordered that there should be no construction or demolition of structures or cutting down of trees in relation to the ambitious Central Vista project of the Central Government.

The judgment was pronounced in a batch of petitions challenging the Rs. 20,000 crore Central Vista project, involving renovation and redevelopment of approximately 86 acres of land in the heart of Lutyens Delhi, marked by structures like the Parliament, Rashtrapati Bhavan, India Gate, North Block and South Block amongst others.

On February 11, 2020, while hearing a challenge against a notification issued by the Delhi Development Authority regarding the Central Vista project, a Single Bench of the Delhi HC had directed that the Delhi Development Authority should approach the Court before notifying the proposed land-use changes in Central Vista. This was in a writ petition filed by one Rajeev Suri (who is the Petitioner in the fresh plea before the Supreme Court).

This was stayed by a Division Bench of the Delhi High Court on February 28, 2020, in appeals filed by the Centre and the DDA. Aggrieved by the Division Bench order, and apprehending that the DDA may notify the proposed land-use changes, Rajeev Suri approached the Supreme Court.

On March 6, a Bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari transferred the writ petition in the High Court to the Supreme Court.

"...in larger public interest, we deem it appropriate that the entire matter pertaining to challenge pending before the High Court is heard and decided by this court expeditiously", the Bench had observed then.

It was also clarified by the Bench that any steps taken by the authorities, in the meantime, will be subject to the outcome of the proceedings. Later, few more petitions were filed challenging the project. In April, the Bench had refused to put a stay on the decision-making processes related to the project.

During October-November, the Bench held final hearing on the petitions, hearing Senior Advocates Shyam Divan and Sanjay Hegde, and Advocates Gautam Bhatia, Vrinda Bhandari and Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta in the case. Judgment was reserved on November 5.

Reports about the hearings in the case available here.

Click Here To Download Judgment

[Read Judgment]



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