No arbitrariness in selection of consultant for Central Vista project, Centre tells SC

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New Delhi, Nov 4 (PTI) The Centre told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that there was no arbitrariness or favouritism in selecting consultant for the Central Vista project, which covers 3-km stretch from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate in Lutyens' Delhi, and the argument that government could have adopted a better process cannot be a ground to scrap the project.

Gujarat-based architecture firm HCP Designs has won the consultancy bid for the Centre's ambitious project to redevelop the Central Vista.

The revamp, which was announced in September last year, envisages a new triangular Parliament building, with seating capacity for 900 to 1,200 MPs, that is targeted to be constructed by August, 2022 when the country will be celebrating its 75th Independence Day. The common Central Secretariat is likely to be built by 2024.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told a bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar that there was “no abdication of duty” in selection of consultant and every stakeholder participated and gave suggestions in the process.

“An argument that the government could have adopted a better process, cannot be a sufficient ground to scrap the project,” Mehta said while opposing the pleas which have raised questions over several aspects including the environmental clearance (EC) granted to the project.

“There was no element of arbitrariness or favouritism in selection of consultant,” he told the bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna.

The solicitor general said the decision was taken by the competent authority and there is no allegation of “colourable exercise of power”.

He said the petitioners have not shown any constitutional or statutory breach in the matter and they have only offered an alternative method, which cannot be a reason to scrap the project.

The recent trend is to involve constitutional morality and due process clause from foreign countries in every case, Mehta said.

“Due process is not contemplated by our Constitution,” he said. “We have our Constitution and we should not deviate from it”.

Arguments in the matter remained inconclusive and would continue on Thursday.

The Centre had told the apex court on Tuesday that the Central Vista project would “save money” which is paid as rent for housing Central government ministries in the national capital. The government had said that decision to have a new Parliament building has not been taken in a haste and no law or norms have been violated in any manner for the project.

The top court is hearing several pleas on the issue, including the one filed by activist Rajeev Suri, against various permissions given to the project by the authorities including the nod to change of land use.

Earlier, the apex court had said that any change at the ground level made by authorities for the Central Vista project will be 'at their own risk'.

It had made it clear that the fate of the project, which includes several new government buildings and a new Parliament House, will depend on its decision.

The pleas have also challenged the grant of a no-objection certificate by the Central Vista Committee (CVC) and also the environmental clearances for the construction of a new parliament house building.

One of the pleas was filed against a Delhi High Court order which had said the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) was not required to apprise it before notifying changes in the Master Plan to allow the Central Vista project.

The division bench of the Delhi High Court had on February 28 stayed an order of its single judge bench which had asked the DDA to approach the court before notifying any change in the Master Plan for going forth with the Centre's ambitious project to redevelop the Central Vista.

The high court’s stay order on the single judge bench's February 11 direction had come on the intra-court appeal of the DDA and the Centre.

The petitioners before the high court had opposed the Central Vista project on the ground that it involves a change in land use of the green area adjoining Rajpath and Vijay Chowk for building new Parliament and government offices. PTI ABA SJK MNL SA