The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the foundation stone ceremony for the new Parliament building to go ahead as scheduled on December 10, after the government gave an undertaking to keep in abeyance construction or demolition of buildings and shifting of trees in the Central Vista area for now.
A Bench led by Justice AM Khanwilkar expressed displeasure with the Centre for “aggressively” continuing with the construction, demolition and shifting of trees even as questions concerning the legality of the Central Vista project were raised in Court.
“We thought we are dealing with a prudent litigant and deference will be shown…We have shown deference to you and expected that you will act in a prudent manner. The same deference should be shown to the Court and there should be no demolition or construction,” Khanwilkar told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for the Centre.
‘No physical damage’
Mehta, after receiving instructions from the government, apologised to the Court and gave an undertaking that no physical changes would be made to area.
“I can make a statement that there will be no construction, demolition or felling of trees. Foundation stone will be laid. But, no physical change,” Mehta assured.
The court said in its order that the authorities would be “free to other formal processes without altering the site in any manner, including continuing with scheduled programme of foundation stone on December 10”.
The case was listed suo motu by the court on Monday.
The Bench had, on November 5, reserved its judgment on the petitions challenging the redevelopment project of Central Vista area in the National Capital.
The Court would be considering whether the project complied with land use and environmental regulations peculiar to the area which houses the Parliament and Central Secretariat buildings.
The government had defended its multi-crore Central Vista redevelopment plan, saying the exisitng Parliament building which is nearly a 100 years old is under tremendous pressure and not a brick of the heritage structures will be touched while constructing the new Parliament, Central Secretariat and various ministries.
Mehta had argued that the redevleopment plan was a “broad vision”, and on the practical side, it would save the public exchequer ₹1,000 crore in annual expenditure, besides improving coordination among ministries which would be housed in 10 buildings vantageously connected via metro rail.
The petitioners had objected to the proposed change in land usage of Central Vista, the historical boulevard of approximately 3.5 km from Rashtrapati Bhawan to India Gate, and further to the National Stadium, is a symbol of India’s historic past, its nationhood, its vibrant democracy.
“It is where living history breathes from every inch of this cherished stretch of land, where the Republic Day parade and Beating Retreat are held every year. Central Vista is an essential ingredient of our sovereignty and pride, and also where recreational spaces are available for the enjoyment by the citizens,” they had contended.