Supreme Court Rebukes Centre For "Moving Aggressively" On Central Vista

Central Vista Project: As the government agreed to its condition, the Supreme Court said the "authorities are free to undertake formal process without altering site in question in any manner".

Central Vista Project: PM Modi will lay foundation of new parliament building on December 10.

Highlights

  • No construction, demolition for central vista project after launch: Top c
  • Court says authorities can do paperwork but not cut trees; centre agrees
  • Centre rebuked for moving "aggressively" before decision on petitions
New Delhi:

There must be no construction or demolition for the central vista project after Prime Minister Narendra Modi launches a part of it this week, the Supreme Court said today, rebuking the government for "moving forward aggressively" on the plan even before a decision on petitions challenging it.

As the government agreed to its condition, the Supreme Court said the "authorities are free to undertake formal process without altering site in question in any manner".

"You can lay the foundation stone, you can carry on paperwork but no construction or demolition, no cutting down any trees," the Supreme Court told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

PM Modi will perform the groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday for a new parliament building to be built at nearly Rs 1,000 crore as part of the central vista project, it was announced on Saturday. Construction work was put on hold only this morning after the Supreme Court reprimand.

"We expected that you will continue with paperwork etc but not move forward so aggressively that you will start construction," the Supreme Court said to the Solicitor General.

"Just because there is no stay that does not mean you can start construction. We did not pass any clear stay order because we thought you are prudent litigant, and you will show deference to the court. The news items in public domain show you are starting construction," said the judges.

When Mr Mehta sought time to respond to the court's order that no construction or demolition could continue, the court said sternly: "Respond in five minutes or we will pass this order."

After consulting the government, the lawyer told the court: "There will be no construction, demolition or felling of trees. Only foundation stone will be laid."

As the judges passed the order, they said: "This matter was listed in view of certain developments. The Solicitor General states that there will be no construction activity of any nature on the concerned sites, nor any demolition, including further translocation of trees until pronouncement of judgment in all the cases."

The court has reserved its verdict on a batch of petitions questioning the project on environment grounds.

The Rs 20,000-crore Central Vista project seeks to refurbish and build government buildings on a 3-km stretch from the presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate. The project will be aligned along Rajpath, the ceremonial road cutting a swathe across the heart of Delhi, and form the seat of the government that will start with the North Block.

A new triangular Parliament building that can seat 900 to 1,200 MPs is to be constructed by August 2022 when the country celebrates its 75th Independence Day.

In October last year, the government had said there would be no external changes to the iconic Raisina Hill complex and the parliament building.