The Centre on Friday urged the Supreme Court to dismiss with fine a petition challenging the proposed change in land use in some areas for the Central Vista project in Delhi, Live Law reported.

The Central Vista project entails redeveloping a stretch at the heart of Lutyens Delhi. Of the Rs 20,000-crore sanctioned for the project, Rs 971 crore will be spent on a new Parliament building, and Rs 13,450 crore on new residences for the prime minister and the vice president.

The petitioner, social activist Rajeev Suri, had told the court on Monday that the government proposed to change land use in plot one of the Central Vista area from “recreational” to “residential”. He added that the project would take over a children’s recreational park and bus terminal.

“The change in land use will deprive residents of Delhi and citizens of India a vast chunk of highly-treasured open and green space in the Central Vista,” the petitioner had said. “Right to life includes the right to enjoyment of a wholesome life.”

But in an affidavit on Friday, the government said that the plot had never been open to the public.

“Plot No 1 is currently being used as government offices/hutments of the Ministry of Defence for almost 90 years now and no recreational activity exists as per actual ground conditions,” the government said, according to NDTV.

The Centre added that in the Central Vista plan, it has, on its own, decided to expand the space available for recreation, Live Law reported.

“The respondents are cognisant of the public nature of the projects and specifically seek to add various public facilities to the larger vision plan and has suo moto created a lot of space for recreational purposes,” the Centre’s affidavit said. “It is submitted that there are both qualitative and quantitative increase in public spaces in larger vision.”

The government described Suri’s petition as “misconceived” and urged the court to dismiss it.

In May, a petition against the Central Vista Project had been filed in the Delhi High Court also. The petitioners had argued that the project was not an essential activity and could be put on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But in June, the court dismissed the petition, saying that Central Vista was an “essential project of national importance”. The court described the plea as “motivated” and fined the petitioners Rs 1 lakh.

Opposition leaders had also urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to suspend work on the Central Vista project in May, when the second wave of coronavirus was raging in India. They wanted the funds to be diverted towards buying oxygen and vaccines that were not sufficiently available at that time.