'New Parl bid needs higher level of judicial review'

New Parliament proposal needs higher level of judicial review, SC told

The authorities have acted arbitrarily and thus constitutional checks and balances will have to be used here, senior advocate Shyam Divan said

The Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. Credit: PTI File Photo

The Supreme Court was on Wednesday told that the Central Vista project, mooted to construct new Parliament building, should be subjected to a higher degree of judicial review as it is a symbol of Indian democracy.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the petitioner, submitted before a bench presided over by Justice A M Khanwilkar that governments will come and go. However, conformity with democratic norms was needed, especially if it was related to parliamentary heritage work. Heightened judicial scrutiny is called for in this case, he submitted.

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"A case of this type demands a higher level of judicial scrutiny. Rights and privileges of the general public are at stake," he said, adding no empirical study has been undertaken to justify the huge cost that was being incurred to the exchequer.

The authorities have acted arbitrarily and thus constitutional checks and balances will have to be used here, he said.

Divan also pointed out no expert study has been conducted to show the present Parliament building was no longer usable.

"A hands-off approach by the court is not permissible in this case. Centuries of history cannot be undone at the will of the government. The authorities have to show that decision is based upon relevant consideration and documents," he said.

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"When you deal with Parliament, there needs to be checks and balances. How can it be left to CPWS?" Divan asked.

He cited Justice J Chelameshwar's opinion in the K S Puttuswamy case, "Constitution cannot be seen as an ink which can be erased from one regime to another."

He said if the government wanted to supplant the parliamentary building, it required a statute. Parliament needs to be involved in this. There needs to be the highest degree of transparency in this process.

He also referred to a series of judgements to buttress his point that public participation was important in administrative affairs.

The arguments in the matter remained inconclusive and would continue on Thursday.

The Union government has earlier defended before the court its Rs 20,000 crore Central Vista Project, saying there would be no destruction or dismantling of any heritage structure or cutting of existing trees for the construction of new Parliament and central secretariat buildings.

In an affidavit to a plea by Rajeev Suri against the project, the government said construction of the new building to suit the present-day requirement with latest facilities and to accommodate more members is the most prudent proposal. The new Parliament building would allow Lok Sabha to accommodate 876 members and Rajya Sabha with 400 members.