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Central Government’s Central Vista and new parliament projects upheld by SC in a 2:1 majority



JANUARY 05, 2021

The Hon’ble Supreme Court Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna pronounced judgment with respect to the plan for the construction of Central Vista project and the government's proposal to construct a new Parliament in Lutyen's Delhi by the Central Government.

The Bench upheld the plan and proposal for the construction of Central Vista project and a new Parliament in Lutyen's Delhi by 2:1 majority where Justice Sanjiv Khanna dissented on the change of land use.

A comprehensive and heightened judicial scrutiny regarding the permissibility of the Central Vista Project1 of the Government of India was decided in this case. Various issues concerning the decisions taken by the statutory Authorities which included, regarding the change in land use, grant of statutory and other permissions, environmental as well as heritage clearances etc., were raised in the proceedings. The object of the projects were laid and thoroughly scrutinized.

On hearing the arguments of the petitioner and the respondents, the Court ordered as follows,

In conclusion, we declare and direct as follows:

(i) We hold that there is no infirmity in the grant of:

(a) “No Objection” by the Central Vista Committee (CVC)

(b) “Approval” by the Delhi Urban Art Commission (DUAC) as per the DUAC Act, 1973; and

(c) “Prior approval” by the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC) under clause 1.12 of the Building Byelaws for Delhi, 2016.

(ii) We further hold that the exercise of power by the Central Government under Section 11A(2) of the DDA Act, 1957 is just and proper and thus the modifications regarding change in land use of plot Nos. 2 to 8 in the Master Plan of Delhi, 2021/Zonal Development Plan for Zone-D and Zone-C vide impugned notification dated 20.3.2020 stands confirmed.

(iii) The recommendation of Environmental Clearance (EC) by Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) and grant thereof by MoEF is just, proper and in accordance with law including the 2006 Notification. We uphold the same along with appropriate directions therein to ensure that the highlighted mitigating measures are followed by the project proponent in their letter and spirit.

(iv) The project proponent may set up smog tower(s) of adequate capacity, as being integral part of the new Parliament building project; and additionally, use smog guns at the construction site throughout the construction phase is in progress on the site.

(v) We also call upon the respondent MoEF to consider issuing similar general directions regarding installation of adequate capacity of smog tower(s) as integral part in all future major development projects whilst granting development permissions, particularly in cities with bad track record of air quality - be it relating to Government buildings, townships or other private projects of similar scale and magnitude, including to use smog guns during the construction activity of the Project is in progress.

(vi) The stage of prior permission under clause 1.3 of the Building Bye Laws of the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC), is the stage of actual development/redevelopment etc. work is to commence and not the incipient stage of planning and formalisation of the Project. Accordingly, the respondents shall obtain aforementioned prior permission of the designated Authority before actually starting any development/redevelopment work on the stated plots/structures/precincts governed by the heritage laws including on plot No. 118, if already not obtained.

(vii) The selection/appointment of Consultant, in light of the limited examination warranted in this case, is held to be just and proper.(Para.423)

The Hon’ble Supreme Court Justice SANJIV KHANNA has pronounced a separate dissenting judgment on the aspects of public participation on 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 has also held that, on the aspects of Notice inviting Bid, award of consultancy and the order of the Urban Arts Commission he agrees with the final conclusions in the judgment authored by Hon’ble Justice A.M. Khanwilkar.

The present dispute relating to the modification and redevelopment of the Central Vista has different facets. First, is the legal challenge to change in the land use of six plots in the Central Vista under the Delhi Development Act, 1957, and the permissions/approvals granted by the Central Vista Committee, the Delhi Urban Arts Commission under the Delhi Urban Arts Commission Act, 1973 and the clearance/no-objection for construction of a new Parliament House under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. Failure to take prior permission/approval of the Heritage Conservation Committee as per Annexure II of the Unified Building Bye-Laws is alleged. In Writ Petition (Civil) No. 853/2020, the Notice inviting Bid and award of consultancy to the nineth respondent therein has been challenged. At a deeper and conceptual level the question relates to the government’s duty to consult and the scope and ambit of the citizen’s right to participate in the quasi legislative exercise. Connected with the two issues is the third question of scope and amplitude of the power of judicial review (Para.2)

The Court observed that, Central Vista requires a makeover. The hutments and some of the non-heritage buildings like Shashtri Bhawan, Nirman Bhawan, Udyog Bhawan etc. which it is stated occupy more than 90 acres of land require re-development. If a new parliament building is required and being a must, it should be constructed. Several former and the present Speaker have expressed the need for construction of a new Parliament. Central Vista and Parliament House is an heritage and belongs to the Nation and the people. The issues raised by the petitioners along with the stand of the respondents have to be taken into consideration by the statutory authorities in terms of and as per the statutory mandate. Ultimately, the issue has to be decided as per law after ascertain details by professional experts. Interference of the Court does not reflect on merits of the stands, but is on account of procedural illegalities and failure to abide the statutory provisions and mandate.

On the accounts of lack of disclosure for public participation and lack of prior approval of the Heritage Conservation Committee, the Court directed the following. A) The Central Government/Authority would put on public domain on the web, intelligible and adequate information along with drawings, layout plans, with explanatory memorandum etc. within a period of 7 days.

B) Public Advertisement on the website of the Authority and the Central Government along with appropriate publication in the print media would be made within 7 days.

C) Anyone desirous of filing suggestions/objections may do so within 4 weeks from the date of publication. Objections/ suggestions can be sent by email or to the postal address which would be indicated/mentioned in the public notice.

D) The public notice would also notify the date, time and place when public hearing, which would be given by the Heritage Conservation Committee to the persons desirous of appearing before the said Committee. No adjournment or request for postponement would be entertained. However, the Heritage Conservation Committee may if required fix additional date for hearing.

E) Objections/suggestions received by the Authority along with the records of BoEH and other records would be sent to the Heritage Conservation Committee. These objections etc. would also be taken into consideration while deciding the question of approval/permission.

F) Heritage Conservation Committee would decide all contentions in accordance with the Unified Building Bye Laws and the Master Plan of Delhi.

G) Heritage Conservation Committee would be at liberty to also undertaken the public participation exercise if it feels appropriate and necessary in terms of paragraph 1.3 or other paragraphs of the Unified Building Bye Laws for consultation, hearing etc. It would also examine the dispute regarding the boundaries of the Central Vista Precincts at Rajpath.

H) The report of the Heritage Conservation Committee would be then along with the records sent to the Central Government, which would then pass an order in accordance with law and in terms of Section 11A of the Development Act and applicable Development Rules, read with the Unified Building Bye-laws.

I) Heritage Conservation Committee would also simultaneously examine the issue of grant of prior permission/approval in respect of building/permit of new parliament on Plot No. 118. However, its final decision or outcome will be communicated to the local body viz., NDMC, after and only if, the modifications in the master plan were notified.

J) Heritage Conservation Committee would pass a speaking order setting out reasons for the conclusions.(Para.97)

The Court ordered to set aside the order of the EAC dated 22nd April,2020 and the environment clearance by the Ministry of Environment and Forest dated 17th June,2020 and would pass an order of remit to the EAC with a request that they may decide the question on environment clearance within a period of 30 days from the date copy of this order received.




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