M/s. Rajeev Suri vs Delhi Development Authority & Ors.
Name of the Case: M/s. Rajeev Suri vs Delhi Development Authority & Ors.
Case Number: Transferred Case (Civil) No. 229, 230 and Writ Petition (Civil) No.510, 638, 681, 845, 853, 922, 1041 of 2020
Judges Name: Hon’ble Judges A.M. Khanwilkar J, Dinesh Maheshwari J, Sanjiv Khanna J.
Order dated: 05.01.2021
“The Supreme Court has approved the Central Vista project which proposes the construction of a new parliament three times larger than the current 93-year-old heritage building and the modification of the use of 86.1 acres of land in Delhi. In a 2:1 majority decision, the court held that grant of environmental clearance and the notification for change in land use for the project was valid.”
Facts of the Case:
- Several Petitions were filed Challenging the Central Vista Project of the Government of India which proposes the construction of a new parliament three times larger than the current 93-year-old heritage building and the modification of the use of 86.1 acres of land in Delhi. Various questions were addressed in these proceedings relating to the decisions taken by the statutory authorities including regarding the change in land use, grant of statutory and other permissions, environmental as well as heritage clearances etc.
Supreme Court held:
- The Majority judgment delivered by Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari upheld the proposed Central Vista plan of the Centre.
- The petitioners invited the court to apply the “democratic due process” scale to evaluate the validity of the procedures followed at different times by the respondents. The Court observed that the petitioners, despite their best of efforts, have not been able to demonstrate a case of deprivation of life or personal liberty of any individual on account of any of the impugned executive action. It is essential for the petitioners to demonstrate a real and direct impact or restriction on their core fundamental rights due to the impugned executive action to invoke the due process argument.
- The Court further held that the court is sitting in review of the process of an administrative or so to say quasi legislative action which falls in the latter category, namely, with no direct impact on personal liberties as such. A judicial review is an exercise in reference to some existing rights and the reliefs and remedies prayed for. The Rule of Law with regard to judicial interference in administrative and executive or policy matters is no more res integra. It further held that the duty enjoined upon the judiciary is to ensure checks and balances; and to place itself between the Government and citizens when they come face to face in a Court of law. It is meant to act as an equaliser and ensure that the flow of decisions from executive to citizens is overseen through the prism of well-established principles, as and when called upon to do so. The judicial organ is not meant to impose the citizens’ or even its own version of good governance upon the Government in the name of Rule of Law in exercise of its power of judicial review.
- The Court held that the interference of Courts is neither warranted to look into the quality of material relied upon by the Government to approach a decision nor to adjudicate upon the sufficiency of such material. The sole concern of the Court is to look at the relevancy of the material relied upon to take a decision in order to see that the decision is not devoid of application of mind.
- The Court held that there is absolutely no legal basis to “heighten” the judicial review by applying yardstick beyond the statutory scheme and particularly when the Government has accorded no special status to the project and has gone through the ordinary route of such development projects as per law.
- It further held that when a legislature, in its wisdom, decides to enact a legal framework, it is expected to and must be so presumed that it has undertaken a thorough analysis as regards the involvement of stakeholders – experts and non-experts, institutions, procedures, timelines for approval, intradepartmental appeals, inter-department appeals etc. A Court sitting in review does not have this machinery available before it and the Constitution never wanted it to do so. Therefore, when a review is brought before the Court, it cannot choose to adopt a different (or the so-called heightened) approach for reviewing the administrative process involved in reference to a particular project. The role of Court is well defined and it must not leave the administration to grapple with multiplicity of alternate opinions by stepping into the shoes of policymakers.
- The Court observed that Section 11A(2) of the Delhi Development Authority Act gives expansive power upon the Central Government to alter the character or extent of the master plan or zonal plan in public interest and for the proper development of Delhi. The court held that the power of Central Government is not an untrammeled power in that sense, it should be exercised in public interest and meet the tests of reasonableness, non-arbitrariness and fairness. And the proposed use in this case is for asset creation and for public use, naturally if such optimum utilization requires changing land use of Government lands, that must follow in public interest.
- With regard to contentions of petitioners in relation to Environmental Clearance, the court held that facts of the case do not reveal any deliberate concealment of fact/ information from the EAC or supply of any misinformation.
- With regard to contentions of petitioners in relation to violation of public trust, the court held that, for proving the violation of public trust the petitioners need to establish that public resources are being squandered and uses in a manner which cannot be termed as beneficial.