The story so far: The Supreme Court is hearing a petition challenging the change of land use of a plot near Rashtrapati Bhavan, initially allotted for a recreational park and bus terminal, to residential. The plot, according to the Central Public Works Department (CPWD), will be the site of the new Vice-President’s Enclave, which will include the residence and office of the Vice-President. In an affidavit, the Central Government informed the court that the plot had housed government offices for decades and had never been opened for the public or sported recreational space.
How has the land use been changed?
On October 28, 2020, the government notified the change in use of the 15-acre plot, called Plot No. 1, on Church Road near Rashtrapati Bhavan and North Block. The plot is proposed to be the site of a new residence and office space for the Vice-President, as a part of the larger Central Vista revamp project. The plot had been allocated for “transportation (bus terminal/parking) and “government (President Estate and Parliament House) use in the masterplan of Delhi-2021 and further in the Zonal Development Plan as transportation as well as recreational (neighbourhood play area)”. With the 2020 notification, the land use of the plot was changed to “residential”. The plot has had offices of the Ministry of Defence since pre-Independence. With two new MoD buildings outside the Central Vista being completed recently, defence personnel have begun shifting from the hutments on this plot as well as others along the Central Vista.
What are the rules on recreational areas in the land acts?
Section 11-A of the Delhi Development Act, 1957, gives the “Central Government” the authority to “make any modifications to the masterplan or the zonal development plan”. This section was cited when the Delhi Development Authority published a notice inviting objections and suggestions regarding the then-proposed land-use change on March 4, 2020. As many as 90 submissions were received and “considered” before the change was notified in October. The plot is owned by the Land & Development Office, under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, which is executing the project through the CPWD.
Why does the amendment matter?
The government has said the change was required for it to go ahead with its plan to build the Vice-President’s Enclave, for which the CPWD invited bids and shortlisted construction agencies in October. Financial bids have been invited till November 2. The CPWD has proposed construction of three of the nine office buildings planned as the new Central Secretariat on the site of the current Vice-President’s residence on Maulana Azad Road. The government has argued the plots occupied by hutments are under-utilised.
What lies ahead?
The CPWD submitted its affidavit on October 28, and hearing the matter the next day, the Supreme Court gave the petitioner time to file a rejoinder. It adjourned the matter till November 16. The CPWD has said the petition is misconceived and liable to be dismissed with costs. It said overall the space open to the public in the Central Vista would increase with the shifting of Ministries from the 27-acre North Block and South Block, which are to be converted into “national museums”.