Supreme Court nod for Central Vista project to redevelop the Lutyens zone including Parliament House and other heritage structures

Published : January 06, 2021 14:50 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi lays the foundation stone of the new Parliament building, in New Delhi on December 10, 2020. Photo: PTI

The controversial Central Vista project in Delhi, touted as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “dream project”, received a nod from the Supreme Court on January 6. A bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Sanjiv Khanna and Dinesh Maheshwari delivered a two to one judgment in Rajeev Suri vs Delhi Development Authority and others and connected cases. Justices Khanwilkar and Maheshwari gave the go-ahead for the project, while Justice Khanna delivered a dissenting opinion.

The Rs.20,000 crore project aims to redevelop 86 acres in the Lutyens zone, comprising iconic structures such as Parliament House, Rashtrapati Bhavan, India Gate, North Block and South Block, the National Archive, the National Museum and the Amar Jawan Jyoti.

Given the historical significance of the structures which are considered a national heritage and the lack of information about the project from the government, members of civil society approached the Supreme Court.

In March last year,, Rajeev Suri filed a petition under Article 32 of the Constitution, challenging the notification regarding change in land use in the Central Vista, an area “governed by its own existing regulations from recreational, public and semi-public spaces; to that of government offices and residences”. He said the notification was in violation of Article 14, Rule of Law and Article 21, Right to Life.

Diverse issues concerning the decisions taken by the statutory authorities regarding the change in land use, grant of statutory and other permissions, environmental as well as heritage clearances, and so on were raised during the proceedings. The court heard arguments by senior advocates Shyam Divan and Sanjay Hegde, advocates Gautam Bhatia, Vrinda Bhandari and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. On November 5, the court reserved its judgment on the petitions.

Last month, after initially expressing displeasure at the government for going ahead with the project even as the apex court verdict was awaited, the court allowed the government to conduct the foundation stone laying ceremony without altering the basic structures in any manner. On December 10, Prime Minister Narendra Modi presided over a groundbreaking ceremony for the new building.

While delivering his separate dissenting judgment, Justice Khanna said: “The Parliament House is the birth-place of our Constitution and the sanctum sanctorum where the elected representatives of people discuss, deliberate and enact laws…. Initially constructed possibly as a statement of imperial grandeur and power, the Central Vista, in post-independent India, inspires and connects common people to the citadels of our democracy.”

He expressed reservations on aspects of public participation, on the interpretation of the statutory provisions, the failure to take prior approval of the Heritage Conservation Committee and the order passed by the Expert Appraisal Committee. He, however, agreed with the majority judgment on the aspects of notice inviting bid, award of consultancy and the order of the Urban Arts Commission.

The new Parliament building is expected to be completed by August 2022 to mark the 75th Independence Day of India.