SC to hear plea challenging Central Vista project on 3 counts

New Delhi, Aug 18 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it will hear a plea challenging the Central Vista project on three aspects – changes in land use, violation of municipal law and violation of environmental law.

A bench comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjeev Khanna said that it will take up the plea seeking quashing of approval for the proposal to construct a new Parliament building by a committee in April.

The top court is likely to hear the matter on Thursday.

During the hearing on Tuesday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, informed the court that he was occupied with another matter. The bench then adjourned the matter.

On July 29, the apex court allowed the petitioners to challenge the environmental clearance, granted on June 17, to the project.

The top court told senior advocate Shyam Divan that his client can file a petition within a week under the Constitution's Article 32, challenging the environmental clearance to the project. Divan argued in an intervention application filed on behalf of private individuals having expertise in the field.

The top court had asked the Centre to file a reply within a week after the filing of the petition, and posted the matter for further hearing in the week commencing August 17.

Mehta had contended before the bench that petitioners should bear in mind that the government is not dealing with private industry. “This project deals with national interest. There are verdicts which state that issues of public law like here cannot be raised by public-spirited individuals. Intentions here look to delay the project,” submitted Mehta, contesting Divan's arguments.

The apex court also allowed Divan to file an appeal in National Green Tribunal (NGT).

“We will first decide land use issues here, and after that, if the question on environmental clearance remains, then the NGT can look into it. If land use itself is not permitted, then environmental clearance is not permitted,” noted the bench.

Divan had argued before the bench that the process of environmental clearance suffers from several illegalities as there is non-application of mind on the part of the environment appraisal committee (EAC) and the mandatory legal process was subverted in the case.

At this, the bench asked: “Is the challenge only on procedural grounds? The impression you are creating is not correct. Will your arguments be different in NGT?”

Divan replied: “I will challenge the full environmental clearance in a complete way. No piecemeal challenge.”

The plan for the project has been prepared in accordance with India's 75th Independence Day in 2022. The work on the Central Vista, which houses iconic buildings like the Parliament House, Rashtrapati Bhavan, the North and South Block buildings, which house important ministries, and also the India Gate, is slated for completion by November 2021.

Apart from a new Parliament house, the Centre proposes to construct a new residential complex, which would house the Prime Minister and the Vice President besides several new office buildings.



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