The Supreme Court Wednesday allowed filing of a fresh plea challenging the June 17 environmental clearance (EC) granted to the ambitious Central Vista project, covering 3-km stretch from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate in Lutyens’ Delhi, for constructing a new Parliament House and other government buildings. A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheswari and Sanjiv Khanna allowed senior advocate Shyam Divan to file within a week a fresh plea challenging the EC by the ‘Central Vista Committee’ to the project.
The central government will respond to the petition a week after it is filed.
The top court, which posted the petition to be filed for hearing in the week commencing August 17, said however that it was not sure whether physical hearing would commence by then. It has been holding hearing via video conferencing since the COVID-19 lockdown in March.
“We permit a week to Divan to file the petition and a week to Centre to reply within a week of receiving the plea… Matter to be posted after two weeks,” the bench ordered.
The bench was hearing as many as seven pleas, including two transfer petitions from the Delhi High Court, on the issue and they have been filed by persons like activist Rajeev Suri and retired Lt Col. Anuj Srivastava against various permissions given to the project by the authorities including the nod to change the land use.
At the outset, Divan, appearing for one of the petitioners, said the case was primarily against the permission on change of the land use and then “there was an environmental clearance granted on June 17 to the project”.
He said there were multiple causes of action and the grant of the EC can be challenged before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the apex court cannot use its power to curtail that challenge to the EC before the NGT.
The bench said that there were two other petitions which raised the environmental issues and the fresh plea on EC will be governed by the orders of the apex court only.
Lawyer Shikhil Suri, appearing for Suri, said that one of the pending petitions challenged the grant of EC to the parliament project only, but now the issue of grant of EC to entire Central Vista project has come up.
“There is no ‘We versus They’ here. Our parliament is being constructed. In future also defence and finance ministry buildings will be constructed,” said Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, adding that “private individuals” are before the court as also the “public spirited individuals”.
“The project has to go through every level of scrutiny that a citizen can invoke. The clearance granted was for the construction of new and renovation of the existing parliament building,” Divan said.
Opposing the grant of the EC, Divan said a piecemeal approach was adopted and the entire central vista project was needed to be registered as a township project and then the EC should have been granted Recently, the CPWD has supported the the project and sought dismissal of the pleas challenging it.
Earlier, the apex court had said that any change at the ground level made by authorities for the Central Vista project will be “at their own risk”.
It had made it clear that the fate of the project, which includes several new government buildings and a new Parliament House, will depend on its decision.
The pleas have challenged the grant of a no-objection certificate by the Central Vista Committee (CVC) and also the environmental clearances for the construction of a new parliament house building.
One of the pleas was filed against a Delhi High Court order which had said the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) was not required to apprise it before notifying changes in the Master Plan to allow the Central Vista project.
The division bench of the Delhi High Court had on February 28 stayed an order of its single judge bench which had asked the DDA to approach the court before notifying any change in the Master Plan for going forth with the Centre’s ambitious project to redevelop the Central Vista.
The high court’s stay order on the single judge bench’s February 11 direction had come on the intra-court appeal of the DDA and the Centre.
The petitioners before the high court had opposed the Central Vista project on the ground that it involves a change in land use of the green area adjoining Rajpath and Vijay Chowk for building new Parliament and government offices.
Gujarat-based architecture firm HCP Designs has won the consultancy bid for the Centre’s ambitious project to redevelop the Central Vista.
The revamp, which was announced in September last year, envisages a new triangular Parliament building, with seating capacity for 900 to 1,200 MPs, that is targeted to be constructed by August, 2022 when the country will be celebrating its 75th Independence Day. The common Central Secretariat is likely to be built by 2024.