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Central Vista Project: SC Bars Construction or Demolition, Allows Foundation Stone Ceremony

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone on December 10 for the new Parliament building.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the Centre to go ahead with the proposed foundation stone laying ceremony for the Central Vista project after the government assured it that no construction or demolition work would be done till the apex court decides the pending pleas on the issue.

During the hearing, the bench slammed the Centre for beginning construction activities even though pleas against it were being heard by the Supreme Court. “We have shown deference to you and expected that you will act in a prudent manner. The same deference should be shown to the Court and there should be no demolition or construction,” Justice A.M. Khanwilkar said, according to LiveLaw.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told a bench headed by Justice Khanwilkar that there would be only foundation stone laying ceremony for the project and no construction would commence as of now.

The court then said that there should be no construction, demolition or tree-felling at the site, but the Centre is free to continue the requisite paperwork and also hold the foundation stone laying ceremony, LiveLaw reported.

The revamp project, which was announced in September last year, envisages a new triangular Parliament building, with a seating capacity for 900 to 1,200 MPs, and the target is to construct it by August 2022 when the country will be celebrating its 75th Independence Day.

Also read: The Folly and Vanity of the Project to Redesign Delhi

The common Central Secretariat is likely to be built by 2024 as part of the project.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone on December 10 for the new Parliament building and the construction is expected to be completed by 2022 at an estimated cost of Rs 971 crore, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla had said on December 5.

The top court is seized of pleas which have raised questions over several aspects, including the environmental clearance granted to the project. Several questions have been raised about the proposed Central Vista projects by environmentalists, heritage experts, architects and former civil servants. For instance, renowned architect and urban planner A.G. Krishna Menon wrote in The Wire:

“There is obviously more riding on the project than meets the eye. What is the urgent compulsion for a democratically elected government to spend over Rs. 20,000 crores on this contentious project? Given mounting evidence of a sluggish economy, voices of concern had been raised even before the project was announced regarding the huge outlay of public money on for instance, bullet trains and massive statues. Now, with COVID-19 and the imperative to alleviate the hardships it is imposing on the “collarless” citizens of the country and on immediate health needs, this extravagance borders on wanton and perfidious.

…Modi is determined to deliver a centenary gift to the RSS. It will add a feather in his hat which, in an election year (2024), could help him get re-elected. This is his moment, and he will exploit it, all criticisms and objections notwithstanding. He has no credible political opposition: he did not find it necessary to consult them to build a new parliament. His ministers obligingly genuflect when they are tasked to do a job: urban development minister Hardeep Puri, formerly a distinguished diplomat, for example, willingly ignored the protocols of democratic governance when he proclaimed that the redevelopment of Central Vista that was being implemented was Modiji’s “dream”.”