The Supreme Court Tuesday asked the Centre to consider issuing directions to ensure adequate use of anti-smog guns and make setting up of smog towers a "mandatory requirement" during construction of development projects involving government buildings, townships or other major private projects.
The apex court said that time has come to advance the intent behind improving air quality a mandatory feature for modern buildings and more particularly during the phase of construction of major projects in the cities most affected by air pollution.
The top court said this in its 2:1 majority verdict by which it paved way for the ambitious Central Vista Project, covering a three-km stretch from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate in Lutyens' Delhi.
"We deem it fit to call upon the respondent MoHUA (Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs) to consider issuing appropriate general directions so as to ensure that adequate use of smog guns during the construction of development projects and setting up smog towers is made a mandatory requirement, particularly involving government buildings, townships or other major private projects," said Justice A M Khanwilkar, writing the 432-page majority judgement for himself and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari.
"Time has come to advance the intent behind improving air quality a mandatory feature for modern buildings and more particularly during the phase of construction of such major projects in the cities most affected by air pollution. In other words, directions be issued for the areas with deteriorating air quality index. We call upon the respondents (MoEF) to finalise the nuances in this regard and issue appropriate directions," he said.
The verdict was delivered on a batch of petitions, which questioned several aspects of the project, including the environmental clearance (EC) granted to it.
The majority verdict, while declining to interfere in the grant of EC in the matter, said that mitigating measures must be observed by the project proponent in letter and spirit during the construction and operational phase.
"Waste management methods, inclusive of hazardous wastes, must be subject to regular monitoring. The construction debris must be subjected to immediate removal as per the Construction & Development Plan. The project proponent may also install permanent high-capacity smog tower as part of the project and use adequate number of smog guns to minimise pollution levels during the construction activity is in progress on the site," it said.
The top court held that grant of EC and the notification for change in land use for construction of new parliament building under the project was valid
It found "no infirmity" in grant of EC and other permissions, saying it cannot "jump to put a full stop on execution of policy matters" and the courts cannot be called upon to "govern".
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 be celebrating its 75th Independence Day. The common Central Secretariat is likely to be built by 2024 under the project.
Justice Sanjiv Khanna, the third judge on the bench, wrote a dissenting 179-page judgement on aspects relating to public participation in the decision-making process and on alleged failure on the part of the authorities in taking prior approval of the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC) for the project.
Justice Khanna, in his minority view which will not be operational, set aside and quashed the final notification of modification or change of the land use in respect of the six plots in the Central Vista project.
He, however, concurred with the majority verdict on the aspects of "notice inviting Bid, award of consultancy and the order of the Urban Arts Commission, as a standalone and independent order".