The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay the ground work for the Central Vista project even as the Centre said there was no overreaching of the court process in the pursuit of the ₹20,000-crore redevelopment plan of the nation’s power corridor clearances.
Appearing before a Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, advocate Shikhil Suri, for petitioner Rajiv Suri, said the government was “churning out approvals” for the project regardless of pendency of challenge in the top court.
“Can we restrain authorities from acting as per law?” Justice Khanwilkar, flanked by Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna, asked Mr. Suri.
Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for another petitioner, said clearances were being sought and obtained continuously.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the government, said a consolidated reply to the allegations would be filed. The court asked the government to file its reply by July 3. It posted the case for hearing after July 6, when the court re-opens post vacations. The court is closing for a two-week vacation on June 19.
The petitions have primarily challenged a notification issued by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs on March 20 authorising the change of land use.
On March 6, the top court transferred the issue from the Delhi High Court and ordered that “any steps taken by the authorities, in the meantime, will be subject to the outcome of the proceedings”.
Mr. Mehta countered why the petitioner has a problem as the project envisaged only the construction of Parliament.
Mr. Suri has argued that the proposed change in land usage of Central Vista, the historical boulevard of approximately 3.5 km from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate, and further to the National Stadium, is a symbol of India’s historic past, nationhood and 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. It is a major attraction for the tourists who visit the country,” the petition has said.
The petition reminded that Article 49 of the Constitution provided for protection of monuments and places and objects of national importance.
“In the ‘re-development’ of the Central Vista, the entire matter has been clothed in secrecy and opacity. More sinister are the murky, dubious and suspicious events, leading up to the present-day events. Foremost is the malevolent and malicious manner in which Central Government decided in May 2015 to withdraw India’s nomination to attain a World Heritage City tag for Delhi’s Imperial Capital Cities from UNESCO; a quest it had been pursuing over the last decade or so. A dossier meticulously and painstakingly created over the previous five years and placed before UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee was abruptly withdrawn a month before a final decision was to be taken by UNESCO, without any reasons being assigned by the Government,” the petition said.