Public participation is not a formality: Dissenting SC judge on Central Vista

Express News Service
NEW DELHI:  With the Supreme Court upholding the decision of the Central government to redevelop the Central Vista area of Lutyen’s Delhi in a majority verdict of 2:1, the lone dissent judge highlighted several shortfalls in the process adopted by the government. 

Justice Sanjiv Khanna dissented with the majority opinion on the aspects of public participation on the interpretation of the statutory provisions, 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 order on the aspects of Notice inviting Bid, the award of consultancy, and the order of the Urban Arts Commission, as a standalone and independent order.

He said public participation is not to be a mechanical exercise or formality and it must comply with the least and basic requirements so that it is fruitful and constructive. “Thus, mere uploading of the gazette notification giving the present and the proposed land use with plot numbers was not sufficient compliance, but rather an exercise violating the express as well as implied stipulations, that is, necessity and requirement to make adequate and intelligible disclosure.”

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“The citizenry had the right to know intelligible details explaining the proposal to participate and express themselves, give suggestions and submit objections,” penned Khanna. While quashing the notification of modification/change of the land use dated March 28 2020, Khanna directed the Centre to put in the public domain on the web, adequate information along with drawings, layout plans, with explanatory memorandum etc. within a period of 7 days. Justice Khanna said the purpose of outsourcing the task to EAC is to have a proper evaluation on the basis of some objective criteria.