Project to develop Central Vista gets 2:1 Supreme Court green light

Express News Service
NEW DELHI:  A Supreme Court bench on Tuesday greenlighted the mega Central Vista project by 2:1 majority, saying there were no infirmities in clearances granted to it. Justice A M Khanwilkar, writing for himself and Justice Dinesh Maheswari, however, said authorities executing the project will have to get clearance from the Heritage Conservation Committee, rejecting the Centre’s stand that the approval was to be taken subsequently. 

The two judges found the process to change the land use at the project site legal and valid. They also found all notifications issued for the project as also the approval granted by the environmental committee valid. 

The majority verdict directed the Union ministry of environment to set up smog towers as an integral part of the Central Vista project and ordered use of environment-friendly construction material. On the issue of award of contract to a Gujarat-based firm, the court held it was just and proper. 

While agreeing with the other two judges on “the aspects of Notice inviting Bid, award of consultancy and the order of the Urban Arts Commission,” Justice Sanjiv Khanna in his dissenting verdict faulted the Centre for not following due procedure. “There is no intelligible disclosure of public participation and no prior approval of Heritage Conservation Committee,” Justice Khanna said.

Justice Sanjiv Khanna“I have sent the issue to Heritage Conservation Committee. We have not gone into the merits of matter,” he said, adding prior approval of the Heritage Conservation Committee was necessary for such projects. The government had defended the project, arguing that the current British-era Parliament House, opened in 1927, had less space, no fire safety norms or earthquake proofing. It had also contended that all Central ministries need to be bunched together in one place to improve efficiency. 

Dissenting verdict

Adequate notice not given to stakeholders of the development plan
Tender notices do not suggest the project envisaged extensive change, though it was for complete redevelopment of Central Vista
Fatal flaw in following procedure; Centre did not apply its mind to inputs from the public
Lack of reasonable time prevented those who had filed objections and given suggestions to appear orally and state their point of view
Premeditated effort to ensure approval without the presence and participation of representatives of professional bodies
No approval from Heritage Conservation Committee
Environmental clearance for the project mechanical, invalid