Supreme Court refuses review of January 5 nod to Central Vista project
- The verdicts were uploaded on the Supreme Court website on the weekend
The Supreme Court has refused to revisit its January 5 judgment granting clearance to the Central Vista Redevelopment Plan that envisages a new Parliament, Central Secretariat and offices of ministers, dismissing review petitions in separate orders passed on July 15 and July 20.
The verdicts were uploaded on the Supreme Court website on the weekend.
A bench of justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari said, “Prayer for listing or hearing the review petitions in open court is rejected. The present review petitions have been filed against the final judgment and order dated January 5, 2021. We have perused the review petitions as well as the grounds in support thereof. In our opinion, no case for review is made out.”
The review petitions are heard and decided in chambers by the judges who gave the verdict. In the event, the review petitions are allowed, the same are listed in open court for hearing.
The review petitions were filed by architect and urban planner AG Krishna Menon, activist lieutenant colonel (Retd) Anuj Srivastava and former bureaucrat Meena Gupta. Menon’s petition was decided on July 15, while the remaining two review petitions were decided on July 20 by the same bench.
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court by a 2:1 majority approved all clearances for the Central Vista redevelopment project, including environmental clearance and change of land use by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). The dissenting verdict was by Justice Sanjiv Khanna which held that the change of land use did not follow the process under law for adequate consultation and public participation.
The majority verdict, on the other hand, took the view that in a given case, it is for the legislature to decide by law whether personal oral hearing is required, mere representation is to be invited, or the matter calls for public discussion and not the Court.
It noted that the land use change was not of a “radical character” as it was meant for similar purpose of having government offices, public and semi-public use and recreation.
“The project does not involve any conversion into private ownership and has no element whatsoever of permitting commercial use of vital public resources. The proposed project is in line with the standards of public trust and the petitioners have failed to point out any circumstance which would suggest otherwise,” the majority judgment had stated.
It did not agree with the petitioners that the entire Central Vista area was a heritage zone. However, the majority view held that the Government will have to take approvals from the Heritage Conservation Committee and municipal authorities before construction of the new Parliament begins. The Centre had appointed HCP Design, Planning and Management as consultant for the Central Vista project in September 2019. This decision too was approved by the court.
The project to modernise India’s power corridor was first proposed in 2019 but quickly ran into controversy with opposition parties, civil society members and activists first questioning the need for the revamp and later the decision to continue with the project in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the government repeatedly defended the project, saying decades-old buildings were run down and needed a facelift.
On May 31, the Delhi high court turned down a petition that sought to halt a part of the redevelopment work and called the Central Vista an “an essential project of national importance”.