Central Vista Project: SC asks Centre to reply to Divan’s environment clearance objection

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar today gave the Union of India time to file its response to Senior Advocate Shyam Divan’s writ that raises objections to the Environment Clearance (EC) given to the Central Vista Project of the Union government on June 17.  

The court has given Divan a week to file the petition and asked the Centre to reply within a week of receiving that plea.

The matter has been posted for the week commencing August 17. “We don’t know if physical hearings will commence then,” the court commented.

The court also allowed Divan to file an appeal in the NGT. The court said it was “maintaining the preliminary objections already raised.”

In court, Divan argued: “This case is primarily against the change in land use. There was an environmental clearance granted on June 17 about the project. Now my client says that we have a statutory remedy against it. This is a large project which requires a number of clearances. So there are multiple causes of action.”

Justice Khanwilkar said: “While the case is pending here, you can file your appeal. There are two petitions which raise environmental issues. If your plea deals with same issues then you will be governed by the same.”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta asked: “Which order are you attacking?”

Divan said: “I am attacking the environmental clearance granted on June 17.”

Advocate Shikhil Suri said: “The Supreme Court is hearing our petition, and along with that I have filed two other pleas. One of the main grounds challenging EC is that clearance is only for parliament building but the project is the entire Central Vista.

This helps them avoid rigor of environmental impact assessment.”

The bench said: “We will make it clear to Mr Divan that we will not hear technical issues.”

Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde said: “These clearances were obtained for the parliament building, which is only a part of the Central Vista project. There can be no change in land use here. What all will happen during the development project is not before the court. At each stage there needs to be fresh applications. The scope of this proceeding needs to be solely on the parliament building.”

The bench said: “We will only confine ourselves to the issues before us right now.”

The SG said: “I would oppose Mr Divan’s plea under Article 145 of the Constitution. There is no ‘We vs They’ here. Our parliament is being constructed. In future also defence and finance ministry buildings will be constructed, private individuals are now before as public spirited individuals before you. Mr Divan’s application has no argumentative merit.”

Divan said: “If we peruse the National Green Tribunal Act… It is a very detailed statutory clearance which has been granted. There are a lot of infirmities in this and we want to place this before the tribunal to show all of this in detail. The law as laid down by NGT is when we are dealing with EC, we look at cumulative impact.

“NGT clearly says that there has been an assessment of cumulative impact. This project will have an impact on citizens as a whole. Environmental Impact Assessment has to be conducted on the whole project.

“The project has to go through every level of scrutiny that a citizen can invoke. The clearance granted was for the construction of new and renovation of the existing parliament building.

“It was stated that the Central Vista project will make a positive contribution to social infrastructure… “

-India Legal Bureau

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