The Centre has informed the Supreme Court that the North and South blocks, which cover nearly 27 acres housing government offices in national capital, are proposed to be converted into national museums.
The submission was made in response to a petition challenging the change in land use of a plot where the new official residences of the vice-president and the prime minister are stipulated as part of the ambitious Central Vista project in Lutyens' Delhi.
The Centre also told the top court that all the ministries will be relocated in the Common Central Secretariat buildings which are being developed on of the Rajpath.
'It is submitted that the respondents are cognizant of the public nature of the projects and specifically seek to add various public facilities to the larger vision plan and have suo motu created a lot of space for recreational purposes. It is submitted that there are both qualitative and quantitative increases in public spaces in larger vision,' it said.
'For example, North and South blocks which cover nearly 27 acres and are proposed to be converted into national museums showcasing 'India in making' prehistoric to present date. The museums will be open to the public at large and serve important public purposes,' the affidavit said.
The affidavit stated that the area of Plot No.1 is currently being used as government offices for almost 90 years now and no recreational activity (neighbourhood play area) exists as per actual ground conditions on Plot No. 1.
'It is also averred that the place has not ever been open for the general public to utilise it for any public recreational purposes. It is also submitted that there is no residing population or residential colony in the said vicinity and only the office premises of ministry of defence are functioning in the said area.
'Hence, 'neighbourhood play area' was not in existence [nor is required], and is not therefore required to be in de-jure mentioned in the master plan,' the affidavit said.
In its consolidated reply, the Centre said considering the overall public purpose of the Central Vista and the overall vision behind the same, it has compensated and increased various public areas for the purpose of recreation and added numerous facilities in the overall master plan of Central Vista project which shall be public amenities, over and above the existing ones, for the larger benefit of the public.
'It is submitted that the respondents are cognisant of the public nature of the projects and specifically seek to add various public facilities to the larger vision plan and has suo motu created a lot of space for recreational purposes. It is submitted that there are both qualitative and quantitative increase in public spaces in larger vision,' the affidavit stated.
'It is submitted that the Six plots on the Central Vista with which the present issue relates to, housed structures which were built as temporary barracks or stables during the Second World War according to the needs and requirements of that time. As of today, these structures occupy an area of over 90 acres, including L&M Block near North Block (Plot No. 1), A&B Block near South Block, Plot No.30 on Tyagraj Marg, Plot No.36 & 38, Jamnagar House and Jodhpur House,' the Centre said.
The affidavit said that precious pieces of land on the Vista are highly under-utilised and these structures mostly house Defence establishments, with some offices of other ministries.
'Defence offices complexes ie, buildings for defence offices have been constructed at Africa Avenue and KG Marg and the process of their shifting has already commenced. It is submitted that hon'ble vice president residence has been proposed to be constructed on Plot No. 1 in Central Vista ie, L & M Block near the North Block,' the affidavit said.
'It is submitted that the Plot No. 1 of Central Vista is located on Church Road near Delhi Transport Corporation central secretariat bus terminal, New Delhi. The said site falls within Central Vista area and Lutyens' Bungalow zone. As per MPD-2021, the land use of the site was under transportation (bus terminal/parking) and recreational (neighbourhood play) as per zonal development of zone-D, prepared under MPD-2001. That as a part of redevelopment master plan of Central Vista, existing vice president residence is proposed to be relocated to the plot near North Block ie, Plot No. 1,' the Centre said.
This will in turn help ease the traffic situation in Central Vista as the movement of the Vice President will be mainly to the Parliament when in session, it said.
The notified land use of the site is residential now, the affidavit said.
The Centre submitted that the existing V P residence plot shall then be made available for three common central secretariat buildings which will form the defense enclave.
The proposed VP residence will have all necessary, updated, latest technology-based security, access control, IT network for communication, facilities in terms of space to meet functional requirements, it said.
The affidavit submitted that all the central ministries will be relocated in the Common Central Secretariat buildings which are being developed on two sides of the Rajpath on the current footprints of different buildings.
It contended that there will be a loss of public recreational areas.
'The respondent before going further seeks to unequivocally state that the Central Vista development/redevelopment master plan has been proposed to meet the present and future needs of space for the Parliament, ministries/departments; providing world class public space for interactions, recreation, better public facilities, amenities, parking, vending areas, facilities for conduct of national festivals and to infuse synergy & efficiency by integration of all the buildings of common central,' it said.
The affidavit stated that the petition challenging the change in land use of plot number one from recreational area to residential is misconceived and liable to be dismissed with costs.
The Central Vista revamp, announced in September 2019, envisages a new triangular Parliament building with a seating capacity for 900 to 1,200 MPs, that is to be constructed by August, 2022 when the country will celebrate its 75th Independence Day.
The common central secretariat is likely to be built by 2024 under the project that covers a 3-km stretch from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate in the national capital.
In January this year, the apex court, by 2:1 majority, had held that the grant of environmental clearance and the notification for change in land use for construction of new Parliament building under the project was valid.
The top court's verdict had come on several pleas, including those against various permissions given to the project by authorities including the grant of environmental clearance and the nod to change of land use.
The top court had in June this year dismissed a separate plea challenging the Delhi High Court order which had rejected a petition seeking to halt Central Vista construction work in view of the COVID pandemic.