Supreme Court Judgment on Central Vista Redevelopment Project

Supreme Court pronounced 2-1 judgment and cleared the Central Vista Redevelopment Project.

Petition challenging the Centre’s change-of-land-use notification of March 2020 for 86 acres of land was filed in SC.

Following statements were put forward by the majority judgment and dissenting judge:

Central vista judgment

More about judgment

SC Court in its judgment held that it found no issues in the following orders and found them as per laws and procedures.

  • “No Objection” by the Central Vista Committee (CVC);
  • “Approval” by the Delhi Urban Art Commission (DUAC) as per the DUAC Act, 1973;
  • “Prior approval” by the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC) under Building Byelaws for Delhi, 2016.”
  • Exercise of power by central government under DDA (Delhi Development Authority) Act, 1957.
  • Environmental Clearance (EC) recommendation for the project by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC).

SC in its judgment also made a statement regarding the limits on its powers. As per the bench, development policies of the Government of the day must be debated in the Parliament. The role of the Court is limited to examining their constitutionality and not to govern.

Further, it asks for the creation of smog towns and deployment of smog guns to mitigate the pollution from construction materials and directs that waste management at the site be subjected to constant monitoring. 

What were the issues raised in the petition challenging Central Vista Project?

Supreme Court was hearing the petition on the following main grounds, put forward by the petitioner:

  1. Change of land use: DDA in its notification made changes in the land use to facilitate the use of public open spaces such as a district park and children’s play area for the use of government office.
  2. Violations of municipal law: consultation with Delhi Urban Commission (DUAC) had to be completed at the plan conception stage itself.
    1. In the absence of a comprehensive consultation, the approvals were granted without proper application of mind.
  3. Violations of environmental law: Parliament building was granted environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change without any Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).
  4. Change in heritage Status: Heritage Conservation Committee allowed the demolition of post-independence constructions by redefining the ‘Heritage status’.
  5. Central Vista Committee(CVC): As per the petitioner, CVC was set up to rush the approvals and it consists of the members, who were proponents of the central vista project. Thus, there is an apparent conflict of interest. 

For more Info. on Issues: Issues with Central Vista Project

What is Central Vista and Central Vista Redevelopment Project?

History of Central Vista development

  • Britain’s King George V on December 12, 1911, at his coronation announced the transfer of the seat of the Government of India from Calcutta to the ancient Capital of Delhi.
  • This 20 years-long project of Central Vista development was led by architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker. It was completed in 1927 and inaugurated by Viceroy Lord Irwin.
  • Central Vista is 3.2 kilometre area in Delhi housing Parliament House, Rashtrapati Bhavan, North and South Blocks, Rajpath, India Gate, National Archives and the then princes’ houses around India Gate.
  • In the 1962 Master plan of Delhi, site was declared a heritage precinct as an “important site to meet the aspirations of a rich culture”.

About the Central Vista Redevelopment Project

  • Project was announced by Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in 2019 as a redevelopment project to give a new identity to the ‘power corridor’ of India.
  • Redevelopment project includes
    • Construction of a new parliament next to existing one,
    • Prime minister and vice-president’s residences along with 10 building blocks that will accommodate all government ministries and departments.
    • Revamping of the 3-km-long Rajpath — from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate.
  • Project will change the structure of the 86-acre area in Lutyens’ Delhi that shows off India’s iconic buildings such as South and North blocks of Central Secretariat, Parliament House, and Rashtrapati Bhavan.
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    Parliament Complex
  • Complete project is estimated to cost around Rs. 20,000 crores. Of this amount, around Rs. 1000 crores is allocated for construction of Parliament Building.
  • It will be a triangular-shaped Parliament building and spans across over 64,500 square metres.
  • It will be able to accommodate 336 more Lok sabha members and 139 more Rajya Sabha members than the current capacity i.e. 888 Lok Sabha members and 384 Rajya Sabha members.
  • Building is projected to complete by 2022, for which Tata Projects won at Rs. 861.90 crores.

Why the Central Vista redevelopment Project has been planned?

  • Firstly, the Current Parliament was built in 1927 to house the legislative council and was not intended to house a bicameral legislature that the country has today. The current building will be under more stress when the number of seats to Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are raised.
  • Secondly, the present Parliament House signifies an imperial origin, whereas India is a successful citizen-led democracy. Thus, the present parliamentary building is not in accordance with the aspirations of independent Indian citizens and the new building will stand out as an institution created by 130 crore citizens.
  • Thirdly, there are international examples of building new parliamentary structures after gaining independence.
    • The Capitol Building in the USA was constructed within 25 years of the country’s independence.
    • In Brazil, the National Congress Building was constructed, almost 70 years after Independence, in 1960. 
  • Fourthly, Present Parliamentary complex was built by the British on their own patterns and designs. New building’s design and interiors will capture Indian values and the rich diversity of our regional arts, crafts, textiles, architecture, and culture.
  • Fifthly, World history proves that Public infrastructure projects playing a key role in reviving economies in distress. For ex; the Tokyo Tower in Japan, built after World War II, provided employment to thousands of workers, instilled a greater sense of nationalism, and contributed to the resurgence of the Japanese economy.
  • Sixthly, the existing building does not conform to fire safety norms and is not earth quake proof. Water and sewer lines are also haphazard and this is damaging its heritage nature. 2001 Parliament attack is a fit example questioning the safety.

Although SC has given a green light to Central Vista Project, it also underlined the need for the significance of transparency i.e. if the relevant information is not placed in the public domain, public will be ill-equipped to understand the need and rationale behind such projects.

Government should become more transparent and try to bring in a consultation process at the initial stage of the project developments to maintain a level of confidence among people of the country.

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