Central Vista: SC asks Centre to file affidavit on issue related to change in land use



NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Monday asked the Centre to file an affidavit on the issue of proposed change in land use of a plot where the new official residences of the Vice-President and the Prime Minister are stipulated as part of the ambitious Central Vista project in Lutyens’ Delhi.

The Central Vista revamp, announced in September 2019 envisages a new triangular Parliament building, with a seating capacity for 900 to 1,200 MPs, that is to be constructed by August, 2022 when the country will celebrate its 75th Independence Day.

The common Central Secretariat is likely to be built by 2024 under the project that covers a 3-km stretch from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate in the national capital.

The apex court was hearing a petition challenging the change in land use of plot number one from recreational area to residential.

The matter came up for hearing before a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and C T Ravikumar which asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was representing the Centre, to file a short affidavit on the issue.

The counsel appearing for the petitioner said the authorities have not demonstrated any public interest as far as the change in land use from recreational to residential for the plot is concerned.

Mehta told the bench that official residences for the Vice-President and the Prime Minister are stipulated on the plot.

“So, the public recreation area is not available now,” the bench asked Mehta, adding, “Is the public recreational area going to be transposed to some other place or transferred to some other plot”.

Mehta said the recreational area could be shifted but he also cited security concerns considering that Parliament would come up there.

“What is your stand, we would like to know about it,” the bench said.

“I will have to take instructions,” Mehta said, adding, “Considering that Parliament and other things would be coming up nearby, from a security point of view it would not be possible to have a recreational area in the vicinity”.

The bench asked whether he would like to file a short affidavit on the limited point raised in the matter.

Mehta said he would file an affidavit within three days.

“The respondents (Centre and others) may file short affidavit to deal with this contention within three days from today, including to justify the necessity of modification,” the bench said and posted the matter for hearing on October 29.

In January this year, the apex court, by 2:1 majority, had held that the grant of environmental clearance and the notification for change in land use for construction of new Parliament building under the project was valid.

The top court’s verdict had come on several pleas, including those against various permissions given to the project by authorities including the grant of environmental clearance and the nod to change of land use.

The top court had in June this year dismissed a separate plea challenging the Delhi High Court order which had rejected a petition seeking to halt Central Vista construction work in view of the COVID pandemic.

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