SC junks plea challenging change in land use on Central Vista project site

The Supreme Court Tuesday dismissed a petition which challenged the change in use of a plot on the Central Vista project site from recreational to residential so it could house the Vice President’s official residence, saying it’s a matter of policy and the court can interfere only if some mala fide is shown in the decision.

“In light of the challenge, a detailed affidavit has been filed. It is not the case of the petitioner that the authorities have no power to introduce such change. It is the argument of the Petitioner that since in the past it was a recreational area, it should have been retained like that. This cannot be the scope of judicial review,” said a bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar.

The bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C T Ravikumar, said it is the prerogative of the authority concerned and a matter of policy.

The court pointed out that it is not the case of the petitioner that the change was made in a mala fide manner. “We find no reason to examine the matter further…The petition is summarily dismissed,” it added.

Appearing for petitioner Rajeev Suri, advocate Shikhil Suri said the changes were not in public interest. He contended that six acres of green area is being taken over for the same.

“They say that the area is proposed to be made into residential area for Vice President… it is a policy decision. How is it illegal? What are the malafides,” asked Justice Khanwilkar.

“Assuming the plot was used for recreational area in the past, is it not open for the authorities to change for the holistic development of the area?” he asked.

The counsel for the petitioner said the authorities concerned should explore if any alternative site can be allotted.

The court wondered if suggestions have to be taken from common people before deciding where the Vice President’s house is to be located.

It also pointed out that the Centre, in an affidavit filed in response to the petition, had said that the green area will be expanded overall.

To a specific query from the court on what principles were he relying on if not mala fide, Suri replied that he is invoking the public trust doctrine.

But the bench said it is “not impressed” with this argument. “If you have any better argument we will consider that. Show us one judgment which says that a plot once described as recreational area cannot be changed at all. It is a matter of policy. Where else can be the residence of President and Vice President be located?” the court said, adding that “everything can be criticised but the criticism should be constructive”.

The court then went on to dismiss the petition.

Petitioner Rajeev Suri had in 2020 challenged the Central Vista Project but that plea too was dismissed by the SC paving the way for construction of the new Parliament building as part of the project.

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