New Delhi, June 19: The Supreme Court on Friday declined to stay the redevelopment of Lutyen’s Delhi Central Vista for the second time in two months, saying it cannot prevent government authorities from acting according to the law.
The bench headed by justice AM Khanwilkar, however, made it clear that any work done on the project will be subject to orders passed by the court in future, The Hindustan Times reported.
The bench clarified this after the government, through its second senior-most law officer, solicitor general Tushar Mehta, told the top court it cannot give any assurance that “no work on the ground” will be done.
The case was adjourned till July 7 after the government requested additional time to file its response. The Supreme Court had earlier refused to stay the project when the matter had come up for hearing on April 30.
The Central Vista is home to iconic buildings such as the Parliament, Rashtrapati Bhavan and the North and South Block buildings, which house important ministries, and the India Gate.
The Union government plans to redevelop the Central Vista by constructing a new Parliament, a new residential complex that will house the prime minister and the vice president and several new office buildings.
The petitioners, advocate Rajeev Suri and Lt Col (retired) Anuj Srivastava, told the court on Friday that approvals by various authorities are being granted despite the matter pending before the Supreme Court. They sought a direction from the court that no further construction work should take place for the project even if approvals are granted.
“Solicitor general must assure that no further step is taken,” it was urged on behalf of the petitioners.
The bench declined to grant such relief and the solicitor general said no such assurance can be given.
Suri and Srivastava first approached the Delhi high court in February, challenging a notification issued by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on December 21, 2019 regarding changes in land use for the redevelopment.
Suri challenged the alterations envisaged by the central government on the ground that they involve changes to land use and standards of population density, and that DDA doesn’t have the power to bring about such changes. He submitted that this power, if at all, lies with the central government.
Srivastava challenged the public hearings held to raise objections to the exercise, arguing they were a mere formality devoid of any meaningful content.
A single judge bench granted interim relief to the petitioners on February 11 but this was overturned by the division bench of the high court on February 28. Suri then approached the Supreme Court, challenging the denial of interim relief by the high court.
The Supreme Court transferred the entire case to itself from the Delhi high court on March 6, saying in an order that in the “larger public interest, we deem it appropriate that the entire matter pertaining to challenge pending before the high court is heard and decided by this court expeditiously”.