The Central government on Tuesday defended in the Supreme Court its multi-crore Central Vista redevelopment plan, saying the existing Parliament building, which is nearly 100 years old is under tremendous pressure and not a brick of the heritage structures will be touched while constructing a new Parliament, Central Secretariat and various ministries.
A ‘broad vision’
Appearing before a Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the redevelopment plan was a “broad vision”, and on the practical side, it would save the public exchequer ₹1000 crore in annual expenditure, besides improve coordination among ministries that would be housed in 10 buildings advantageously connected via metro rail.
Mr. Mehta said there was a real and present danger of fire and security in the current Parliament building. Space was scarce as the present Parliament building is not meant for a bicameral legislative system. A Joint House Session witnessed some parliamentarians being accommodated in plastic chairs much to the detriment of the House’s dignity.
“I am not seeing this case as adversarial litigation but I will assist the court in the matter... The important policy decision taken was the construction of a Parliament complex and Central Secretariat. These cannot be built at Gurgaon, Panipat or Noida. It has to be at Central Vista”, Mr. Mehta submitted.
Series of petitions
A series of petitions have sought the quashing of a notification issued by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs on March 20 authorising the change of land use at the Central Vista.
They have objected to the proposed change in land usage of Central Vista, the historical boulevard of approximately 3.5 km from Rashtrapati Bhawan to India Gate, and further to the National Stadium, saying it is a symbol of India’s historic past, its nationhood, its 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”, they said.