New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave the Centre the go-ahead to construct the new Parliament building and other buildings for ministries, as it cleared the re-development plan for Rs 20,000 crore Central Vista project. On December 10, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone for the new Parliament building. A bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna by a majority of 2:1 said there is no infirmity in the grant of ‘No Objection’ to the project by the Central Vista Committee (CVC) and the approval by the Delhi Urban Arts Commission (DUAC). The top court also upheld change of land use and environmental clearance (EC) in Lutyen’s Delhi.
“We are of the view that the grant of EC is in conformity with the mandate of the competent authority and is just and proper,” said the top court in its 611-page judgment. The bench added that the selection/appointment of consultant is held to be just and proper, and insisted on prior approval by the Heritage Conservation Committee before actually starting any redevelopment work on the stated plots/structures/precincts governed by the heritage laws. The top court emphasised that there is no doubt, the courts are repositories of immense public trust, but it is equally important to realise that courts operate within the boundaries defined by the Constitution. “We cannot be called upon to govern. For, we have no wherewithal or prowess and expertise in that regard,” said the top court.
Citing the course of development, the bench stressed that the right to development is a basic human right and no organ of the state is expected to become an impediment in the process of development as long as the government proceeds in accordance with law. The bench said the exercise of power by the central government under the DDA Act for change of land use is just and proper. “The recommendation of Environmental Clearance (EC) by Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) is just, proper and in accordance with law including the 2006 notification,” said the bench.
Justice Khanna wrote a separate judgment differing from the majority view. Citing no disclosure on public participation, Justice Khanna termed bad in law change in land use notification issued on March 28 last year and also the EC granted to the project in June. The top court, disposing a batch of petitions filed by advocate Rajeev Suri and others, said: “We need to say this because in recent past, the route of public/social interest litigation is being increasingly invoked to call upon the court to examine pure concerns of policy and sorts of generalised grievances against the system.”
The petitioners had raised concerns over the permissions given for the change in land use and EC, and also questioned the authorities allowing such a change. The bench stressed that the constitutionally envisaged system of “checks and balances” has been completely misconstrued and misapplied in this case. “The political issues including regarding development policies of the government of the day must be debated in the Parliament, to which it is accountable. The role of the court is limited to examining the constitutionality including legality of the policy and government actions,” said the court.
The apex court asked the project proponent, CPWD, to set up smog towers, as being integral part of the new Parliament building project and additionally, use smog guns at the construction site throughout the construction phase on the site.