On Monday, Supreme Court resumed the hearing on the challenging to the Central Vista Project and the Government’s proposal to construct a new Parliament in Lutyen’s Delhi.
Challenging the change in the land use of plot no.01 of central Vista project, the court disposed off the petition adding that it will be taken at the later stage as the decision of its usage has not been yet taken by the Government. The bench Justice AM Khanvilkar, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Sanjeev Khanna had earlier decided to hear on the three issues; i.e. violation of Municipal Law, violation of Environmental Law and vis-à-vis Change of land use.
Advocate Vrinda Bhandari advanced that the NIT should be struck down as it did not incorporate any estimate costs, while continuing arguments for the petitioners.
As Bhandari insisted that Rule 182 of the General Financial Rules also applies to consultancy services and has not complied with in the present case, Justice Maheshwari asked “this is not a construction tender but one for consultancy services. The NIT is uniform to all. You are a PIL person. What is the problem? There are no complaints from the bidders”.
Also, Justice Khanvilkar suggested “Reasonable expenditure has been defined from 0-2500 crores, from 2501 crores-5000 crores and above 5000 crores. There is no upper-limit here also. This won’t help you. Your argument should be that no outer-limit was determined by the government for this project, no budgeting was done, and that the government cannot undertake any works without complying with these obligations under its Works Manual”.
“Show us exact provisions that no NIT can be issued unless budgeting is done and expenditure quantified and the upper limit has been indicated in the counter-affidavit. A roughly estimated project cost of Rs. 10,000 crores is indicated”, continued the Judge.
Subsequently, the private consultant was invited to participate in negotiations over the capping of fee, Bhandari contended. Bhandari replied in the negative when Justice Khanvilkar asked if this invitation was extended after the consultant had been declared as the selected bidder.
Justice Khanvilkar questioned, in the letter from the CPWD to the H1 Bidder APC Designs it says that the consultant was already declared as a successful bidder. The in-principle decision h had already been taken. It was only before making a public declaration that the department wanted to cap the fee. There was no outer-limit in the tender and such capping was prejudicial to the bidder, but he still said ‘no problem’. What is wrong here?”
“Can this be the ground to doubt the NIT procedure? All that we have culled out is that there was no clear planning, no budgeting, no financial arrangements, everything was proceeding on estimates. The NIT cannot be struck down solely on this”, continued the judge.
Justice Khanna said, “Capping of costs in case of consultancy firms is difficult. Since there are mitigation circumstances set out for most cases, you can apply that”.
How the original NIT was for only the Central Vista and subsequently, the PM’s residence and the President’s residence were also brought in by the H1, Bhandari pointed out.
Justice Khanvilkar commented, “It is not a substantial change. Additional work is always permitted under a tender”.
Conveying its approval, Advocate Gautam Bhatia sought to point out the infirmities in the decision of the Central Vista Committee granting its no-objection to the proposed project on April 30 and the decision of the Delhi Urban Arts Commission on July 01.
Pointing out that committee gave no reasons for according its clearance to the project, it merely stated ‘No Objections’ and by way of suggestions, it said that features of the new building should be in sync with the existing building, he argued “It gave its NOC to the new Parliament plan vide a non-speaking order. It gives no reasons for how the elaborate but new Parliament plan complied with the suggestions and the rules and regulations”.
Adv. Bhatia indicated that the four experts who are independent members and representatives of the professional bodies of Architects and town planners did not attend the meeting in question. The four experts were The Commissioner, Planning, DDA; The President, Indian Institute of Architects; The member representative, IIA; and The President, Town Planners, India.
Finally, in the present case, he emphasised the significance of the right of public participation, and the task of the Judiciary is to flesh out the rights from the constitution.