The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that the Central Vista, covering a three-km stretch from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate, would save money paid as rent for housing ministries, reported PTI.
The central government submitted that the decision to have a new Parliament building was taken with careful consideration, and no law or norms had been violated for the project. The new building is required as several occupants have hinted at inadequacies in the existing one.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, opposed the pleas raised about environmental clearance and said that all the ministries at one place would increase efficiency and ensure better coordination. He further added that the existing building was not earthquake-proof.
“The current building was built in 1927 prior to Independence and was intended to house the legislative council and not a bicameral legislature we have today,” Mehta said, according to Bar and Bench. “The building does not conform to fire safety norms and water and sewer lines are also haphazard which is damaging the heritage nature of the building.”
Mehta also noted security concerns, citing the 2001 Parliament attack. On December 13, 2001, five heavily armed gunmen stormed Parliament and opened fire. All five attackers were shot dead.
The Solicitor General also said that the Centre decided to redevelop the project in the location as the Parliament and the Central Secretariat should be built in a historically significant place. “These cannot (therefore) be built at Gurgaon, Panipat or Noida,” Mehta said. “It has to be at Central Vista.”
The deadline for the construction of the building was set as 2022, and the project has been treated as a standalone one which means that it can be done even if the rest of the project is scrapped. “The police decision was to build all these [new buildings] without touching the existing heritage properties,” Mehta said, “Not a brick of existing buildings will be touched.”
The Centre is also planning to convert the existing Parliament building into a museum. The bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna, will hear the matter on Wednesday.
The Central Vista project is aimed at making further changes to Parliament and the ministries over the course of four years. The Parliament will be internally restructured to accommodate many more legislators. However, there will be no external changes to the Parliament facade.
Gujarat-based company HCP Design, Planning and Management Private Limited had won the contract for the project in October last year. In June, the Supreme Court refused to stay the groundwork for the Rs 20,000-crore project on environmental grounds.
The project has met with several objections. However, the court is only hearing petitioners and Centre on a limited aspect related to change in land use.