The government has urged the Supreme Court to dismiss a petition against the Central Vista project, calling the plea "misconceived" and saying that it should be dismissed with costs.
The Supreme Court has asked the petitioner - who has challenged the project on grounds it will impact a "public recreational" zone - to file a response to the government's affidavit by November 12. The court will hear the matter next on November 16.
In its affidavit the government said the plot in question had been used for Defence Ministry offices for the past 90 years, and it had never been open for the public's 'recreation purposes'.
"Plot No 1 is currently being used as government offices / hutments of the Ministry of Defence for almost 90 years now and no recreational activity (neighbourhood play area) exists as per actual ground conditions. It is also averred that the place has not ever been open for the general public to utilise it for any public recreational purposes," the government affidavit stated.
"It is also submitted that there is no residing population or residential colony in the said vicinity and only office premises of Ministry of Defence are functioning in the said area. Hence, a 'neighbourhood play area' is not existing [nor is required], and is not therefore required to be in de-jure mentioned in the Master Plan," it added.
The court was also told the government had on its own decided to increase available public recreation areas in the Central Vista master plan; this is for the larger benefit of the public, it said.
"It is submitted that the respondents (the government) are cognisant of the public nature of the projects and specifically seek to add various public facilities to the larger vision plan and has, suo moto, created a lot of space for recreational purposes. It is submitted that there are both qualitative and quantitative increase in public spaces in larger vision," the government stressed.
On Monday a two-member bench of Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice CT Ravikumar had given the government three days to respond to this petition.
The court had asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the government, if it had removed such an area from the plan or whether earlier recreational areas were to be relocated.
Mr Mehta had said it would not be possible to have a recreational area there because the new parliament building, as well as the residence of the Vice President were being built there.
"I will seek instructions from the government but because Parliament and Vice-President's house is coming up there, it would not be possible to have a recreational area in the vicinity," he had said.
The Central Vista Redevelopment Project involves a do-over of a 3.2 km stretch in the heart of Delhi, which was designed by the British before Independence, at the cost of Rs 20,000 crore.
Several government buildings, including Parliament House and ministry offices, will be rebuilt.
A number of petitions challenging the project have been filed, and have been dismissed - by both the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court, neither of which has stopped the project so far.
The petition in question today was filed by social activist Rajeev Suri, who had originally challenged the project earlier citing illegal change in land use and absence of environmental clearance.
The project is expected to be completed next year, when India celebrates 75 years of independence.