Central Vista: SC allows challenge to environmental clearance

New Delhi:  The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed petitioners to challenge the environmental clearance (EC) granted on June 17 to the Central Vista project, which involves construction of a new Parliament building.

A bench comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna told Senior Advocate Shyam Divan that his clients are allowed to file a petition within a week under Article 32 of the Constitution to challenge the environmental clearance to the project.

Divan argued in an intervention application filed on behalf of private individuals having expertise in the field.

The top court also asked the Centre to file a reply within a week after the filing of the petition.

The matter was posted for further hearing in the week commencing August 17.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, contended before the bench that the petitioners should bear in mind that the central government is not dealing with private industry.

“This project deals with national interest. There are verdicts which state that issues of public law like here (in the case) cannot be raised by public-spirited individuals. Intentions here look to delay the project,” Mehta submitted while contesting Divan’s arguments.

The apex court allowed Divan to file an appeal in the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

“We will first decide the land-use issues here at the Supreme Court and after that if the question on environmental clearance remains, then the NGT can look into it. If land use itself is not permitted, then the EC is not permitted,” noted the bench.

Divan argued before the bench that the process of EC suffers from several “illegalities” as there is “non-application of mind on part of the environment appraisal committee (EAC)” and that the mandatory legal process was subverted in the case.

The bench replied: “Is the challenge only on procedural grounds? The impression you are creating is not correct. Will your arguments be different in the NGT?”

In response, Divan contended: “I will challenge the full EC in a complete way. No piecemeal challenge.”

The plan for the project has been prepared in accordance with India’s 75th Independence Day in 2022. The work on the Central Vista is slated for completion by November 2021.

The Central Vista houses iconic buildings like Parliament House, Rashtrapati Bhavan, the North and South Block buildings, which house important ministries, and also the India Gate.

The Centre proposes to redevelop by constructing a new Parliament House, a new residential complex, which would house the Prime Minister and the Vice-President besides several new office buildings.