The construction of the new parliament complex near Delhi’s India Gate can go ahead, the Supreme Court said today in response to petitions that challenged the Central Vista project in terms of permissions and clearances. “We hold that there are no infirmities in clearances given, change in land use,” a three-judge bench of the court said in a majority verdict.
The new parliament building is the centerpiece of the Rs 20,000-crore Central Vista project, which aims to build and refurbish the government buildings on part of the 4-km stretch from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate, located at the heart of the national capital.
The government had recently held the groundbreaking ceremony for the new parliament building, which was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But it had assured the court that no construction activity will be undertaken till the judgment was delivered.
The bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna were hearing petitions that raised concerns over the permissions given — including the No-Objection Certificate given by the Central Vista Committee and the environmental clearances for the construction of a new parliament building.
In his verdict, Justice Sanjiv Khanna, who gave an alternative view, held the project was “bad in law” in terms of land use for two reasons. “There is no intelligible disclosure of public participation and no prior approval of heritage conservation committee,” the judge said.
“I have sent the issue to heritage conservation committee… we have not gone into the merits of matter,” added the judge, who had agreed on the aspect of notice, award of consultancy and the order of the Urban commission.
The government had defended the project in court, arguing that the current British-era Parliament House, opened in 1927, had less space, no fire safety norms or was earthquake proof. It had also contended that all central ministries need to be in one place to improve the efficiency of the government.
The government had also argued that the Central Vista project is a policy decision and the court cannot strike down policy decisions unless they violate fundamental rights.
“It is a policy decision that all central ministries should be at one place and that place has to be one which has historical significance,” the government had told the court.
Today, the court ordered the government to set up smog towers “as an integral part of the Central Vista project and use environment friendly construction material. The environment ministry will pass similar directions for any future projects, the court said.