Central Vista project: Will hear pleas challenging change in land use first, says SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday said that it would first hear the “broad issue” regarding challenge to the change of land use for the ambitious Central Vista project, covering three-kilometre stretch from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate in Lutyens’ Delhi.

A bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar, which was hearing the petitions raising questions over several aspects including the environmental clearance (EC) granted to the project, said the allegations regarding change of land use is the threshold issue.

“We make it clear that the court will first begin with the hearing of broad issue regarding challenge to the change of land use being contrary to the provisions of Delhi Development Act, 1957,” said the bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna.

The apex court said the broad issues raised in the pleas pending before it are — allegations regarding change of land use, alleged violation of statutory and municipal laws, issues regarding environmental clearance and other aspects.

“For the sake of convenience, a draft flow chart has been prepared by the office indicating the heads of broad issues in different petitions filed and listed so far for hearing and, in particular, referring to the specific 5 notifications/notices challenged therein,” the bench noted in its order.

“The parties are free to give suggestions to improve upon or modify the flow chart on the next date of hearing,” the apex court said and posted the matter for hearing on 25 August.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, questioned the challenge made in the pleas to the project which includes construction of new parliament building.

The top court had last month allowed filing of a fresh plea challenging the 17 June environment clearance granted to the project for constructing a new Parliament House and other government buildings.

The bench is hearing several pleas on the issue, including those filed by activist Rajeev Suri and retired Lt Col Anuj Srivastava against various permissions given to the project by the authorities including the nod to change of land use.

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 also 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 28 February 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 11 February 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.

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