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SC clears the way for Central Vista project

A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court yesterday gave the green signal to the redevelopment of New Delhi’s Central Vista area, rejecting a batch of petitions challenging the scheme for alleged violation of land use and environmental norms. SC upheld Central Vista redevelopment by 2:1 majority; Justice Sanjiv Khanna dissented on change of land use.

“We hold that the exercise of the Central government under the DDA Act is legal and valid, and the impugned notification stands confirmed. Recommendation by the Environmental Committee is just and legal and [we] uphold the same,” Justice A.M. Khanwilkar said on Tuesday while pronouncing the majority judgment. He also said that for future projects, the Ministry of Environment should instal smog towers, particularly in cities that are highly polluted.

The apex court on 5 November had reserved its judgment in a batch of pleas challenging the Central Vista development/redevelopment project which relates to the building of a new parliament and other central government offices in Lutyens Delhi.

One of the petitioners, Rajeev Suri, assailed the alterations envisaged by the Centre arguing that they involve changes to land use and standards of population density and that the DDA is not vested with the requisite power to bring about such changes. He submitted that the power for bringing about such changes, if at all, lies with the Central government.

Another petitioner, Lt Col (retd) Anuj Srivastava, challenged the public hearings held to raise objections to the exercise, arguing that they were a mere formality devoid of any meaningful consequence.

The Central government had defended the project claiming that the construction of a new Parliament building and a Central Secretariat has become an absolute necessity due to the stress on the present ones.

Gujarat-based architecture firm HCP Designs had won the consultancy bid for the project to redevelop the Central Vista.

The new parliament building is the centerpiece of the Rs 20,000 crore Central Vista project, which aims to build and refurbish the government buildings on part of the 4-km stretch from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate, located at the heart of the national capital.

The government had recently held the groundbreaking ceremony for the new parliament building, which was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But it had assured the court that no construction activity will be undertaken till the judgment was delivered.

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