SC rejects plea, clears way for new VP house

“It is not some private property being created there. It is for the construction of Vice President’s bungalow…will public view have to be taken on where the VP residence should be?” the bench asked.
Work on the Central Vista underway on Tuesday.(HT Photo)
Work on the Central Vista underway on Tuesday.(HT Photo)
Published on Nov 24, 2021 02:24 AM IST
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ByAbraham Thomas, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The central government can now start building a new residence for the Vice President on a public park and bus depot after the Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition challenging the change in land use.

“It is not the case of the petitioner that the authorities have no power to introduce such a change. Only argument is that in the past, the area was shown as recreational ground and commensurate area has not been provided,” a three-judge bench headed by justice AM Khanwilkar said. “This cannot be the scope of judicial review. It is the prerogative of the authorities concerned and change effected in a government plan, in one sense, is a matter of policy.”

The issue related to plot 1 of the Central Vista area of the national capital, which is now a six-acre public park and a nine-acre bus depot.

Lawyer Rajeev Suri had, in a petition, objected to the conversion of the open space available for public recreation with no alternate site allotted to compensate the loss. Advocate Shikhil Suri, who argued the petition, said that if the government wished to take over the green space, it must provide an alternative within the Vista.

The bench, also comprising justices Dinesh Maheshwari and CT Ravikumar, said: “It is not some private property being created there. It is for the construction of Vice President’s bungalow…will public view have to be taken on where the VP residence should be?”

It was the only challenge against the Central Vista redevelopment plan pending in the top court.

On January 5, the court gave the nod for the entire project by dismissing a clutch of petitions filed by environmentalists, architects, social activists and lawyers challenging the project on multiple grounds, including harm to environment, heritage and in violation of the development rules prevailing in Delhi.

“There should be an end to everything,” said Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre.

The judges relied on an affidavit filed by government explaining the reasons for changing the land use of Plot 1, which housed temporary barracks and stables during the World War 2.

The reason for shifting the residence to the proposed site, according to the affidavit, was to help ease the traffic situation in the Central Vista as the movement of the Vice President was mainly to Parliament.

“This will be well facilitated by the proposed Vice President residence being in close proximity to Parliament,” said the affidavit filed by the Central Public Works Department’s (CPWD) executive engineer Ashwani Mittal. On October 28, 2020, this plot was notified as residential.

“It is not the case of the petitioner that the change in land use has been effected due to any malafide. Since sufficient reasons have been given for change in land use of Plot 1, we find no reason to examine the matter further. We therefore, put a quietus to the matter by dismissing the matter summarily,” the bench said.

The revamp project envisages a new Parliament with a built-up area of around 60,000 square metres and expanded seating for over 1,200 members of both Houses, along with 51 ministries in 10 buildings.

The CPWD affidavit further disclosed that “considering the overall public purpose of the central vista” the Centre has not only compensated for the loss of public recreational space, but has on its own added numerous facilities in the master plan of the central vista project for the larger benefit of the public.

The government had told the Supreme Court that the petition by Suri should be dismissed as the question of change in character of master plan was covered in the judgment of January 5 giving the go-ahead to the central vista project.

“Taking a holistic view and complying with Master Plan Delhi (MPD)-2021 provisions, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has approved the change of land use without compromising with green area, built heritage, transport infrastructure, better utilization of the spaces and fully complying with the provisions of the Delhi Development Authority Act, 1957 and the MPD-2021,” the Centre had submitted.

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