CENTRAL VISTA HAS SUPREME COURT’S SUPPORT

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition challenging a proposed change in land use from bus terminal and neighbourhood park to house the new official residences of high dignitaries such as the Vice-President as part of the ambitious Central Vista redevelopment plan.

A Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar said the change was a policy decision recommended as a part of the holistic development of the entire area. The court said the proposal was entirely a policy call and could not be said to be impermissible in law.

The petitioner, Rajeev Suri, represented by advocate Shikhil Suri, said the green area, called “plot one” should be conserved as a green area in public interest and alternative land should be found to build on.

“So, suggestions from common people have to be taken where the Vice-President’s house is to be located? Show us one judgment which says that the use of a plot once described as a recreational area cannot be changed? It is a matter of policy,” the court observed.

Dictating the order, the court said “the change effected in the development plan in one sense is a matter of policy. It is not the case of the petitioner that the change has been made for mala fide reasons. Suffice to observe sufficient explanation has been provided to justify the change in use of plot number one. We find no reason to examine the matter further and want to put a quietus to the matter by dismissing the petition summarily”.

The petition had questioned the validity of a notification issued by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs on October 28, 2020, notifying the change in land use by proposing modification to Zonal Development Plan of Zone ‘D’ for plot number one in the Central Vista area of Lutyens Delhi.

Mr. Suri had argued that the proposed modification “violates the right to life itself”.

“The change in land use will deprive residents of Delhi and citizens of India a vast chunk of highly-treasured open and green space in the Central Vista… Right to life includes the right to enjoyment of a wholesome life,” Mr. Suri had contended.

In January, the Supreme Court, in a majority verdict, had given the Government the go-ahead to the multi-crore project.

The verdict had focussed on the building of a new Parliament three times bigger than the existing 93-year-old heritage building and was concerned with the modification in the use of 86.1 acres of land home to India’s power corridor.

In their majority opinion, Justices Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari had said the Government did not act against public trust. The Opposition had accused the Government of spending public money on the redevelopment project when the country was battling pandemic and unemployment with scant resources.

Justice Sanjeev Khanna, in his minority view, had opined that there should have been more public consultation involved.

The majority judgment, however, had accepted the Government’s view that the project aimed for an “integrated administration block” and “synergised functioning” of Ministries at present spread across 47 buildings in the region, and in particular, Central Secretariat block.

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