New Delhi: The Centre Tuesday vehemently defended the Central Vista project before the Supreme Court stating that it ‘in fact saves up to Rs 1,000 crore annual rent expenditure’.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted before a bench headed by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, “The project saves money, not wastes it.” Mehta was appearing for the Urban Development Ministry, Delhi Development Authority and Central Public Works Department.
The Centre, in an affidavit, had informed the top court that signs of distress have begun to appear on the nearly 100-year-old Parliament building, which also faces many safety issues. Therefore, it is necessary to construct a modern building for the bicameral House under the Central Vista project.
The Centre also cited the shortfall of about 0.38 million square metres in office space and as a consequence, around Rs 1,000 crore is spent every year as office rent. The Centre has insisted that with a common secretariat for 51 ministries, such expenses can be avoided.
The top court has so far, thrice, refused to stay the project but made it clear that the validity of step taken will be subject to the outcome of the challenge to the project.
Mehta contended before the bench that the project fulfils contemporary needs, and insisted that the heritage buildings will be conserved, not demolished. Mehta argued: “The present Parliament building will be there as it is. The ceremonies will be held in the central hall.”
Mehta submitted that for deciding that a new Parliament is needed, there is no need for a separate study. He added that the policy decision is that all central ministries will have to be at one place and also there is linkage through metro stations which will minimise use of two and four wheelers. “We have to run around the city to go to different ministries increasing traffic and pollution,” Mehta added.
He insisted that new building will save money. The DDA had informed the apex court that historical landmarks like the the Rashtrapati Bhawan, the North and South Blocks, the Parliament House and the National Archives will be conserved.
The top court is hearing two petitions challenging the project and allege that there is an illegal change in land use and has urged the court to quash the project.
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 the Parliament House, Rashtrapati Bhavan, the North and South Block buildings, which house important ministries, and also the India Gate.
The Centre is proposing 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.