Skip to main content

What locus standi Modi has to lay foundation stone of Parliament?, ask ex-civil servants

Counterview Desk

The Constitutional Conduct Group (CCG), a group of retired officers All India and Central Services who have worked with the Central and State Governments, in an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought comprehensive review the Central Vista project, insisting, the Government of India must engage in dialogue with citizens before implementing the high profile project.
Claiming “impartiality, neutrality and commitment to the Indian Constitution, and in safeguarding its values”, CCG in its letter says, “We are writing to you today to convey our dismay at the manner in which your government, and you, as its head, have chosen to completely disregard the rule of law", wondering, how could the Supreme Court permit Modi to lay foundation stone of Parliament as an "exception" because the preparations had already been made been made.

Text:

This project, from its very inception, has been marked by a degree of executive highhandedness rarely witnessed before. Whether it was in inviting design options, selecting consultants, holding fair and transparent stakeholder consultations, obtaining approvals of the institutions and authorities dealing with urban design, planning and environmental clearances -- everything was done to ensure that rules and procedures were given short shrift, due processes treated with contempt and a predetermined plan of action bulldozed through.
Of particular concern is the manner in which environmental clearances were obtained for a plan which treats the green spaces and the built heritage of the Central Vista as an unnecessary hurdle to the achievement of objectives driven by monumental ambition.
Today, we are writing about another aspect of the proposed Central Vista redevelopment: the brazen impropriety in going ahead with the construction of the new Parliament building while the matter is still sub judice. You are aware that the legality of the various approvals given has been challenged in the Supreme Court and the cases have been heard and reserved for orders on November 7, 2020.
Despite these facts, your government acted as if this were only a minor hindrance and blithely went ahead with implementing the construction plans, starting with removing several trees and planning a major foundation stone laying ceremony. We believe that this was the height of impropriety when the very basics of the project were under challenge. While the case was sub judice, it was incumbent upon the Government to await its outcome. Was the plan to present a fait accompli that would be difficult to reverse?
The disregard of the government for the court proceedings was so blatant that the Supreme Court was constrained to rebuke the government for not acting in a prudent manner, and failing to show deference to the Court. On December 7, 2020, the Supreme Court took up the matter suo motu, and demanded an undertaking from the government that no action would be taken before the Court gave its final orders.
That the Court did permit the laying of the foundation stone as an exception because the preparations had already been made is, to us, surprising and a matter of regret. While laying the foundation stone, your speech did not mention, even once, that the construction of the new Parliament building at that spot was conditional on the final decision of the Supreme Court.
We wonder what locus standi the Prime Minister has to lay the foundation stone of the Parliament building. The Prime Minister is the head of the executive, not of the legislature. For a building that will accommodate the two Houses of Parliament, the appropriate protocol would have been for the President of India to lay the foundation stone. This was a clear instance of breach of Constitutional propriety.
The removal of several trees from Plot 118 and the laying of the foundation stone of the new Parliament building are only some of the violations committed by the government. The lackadaisical approach to rules and regulations and to administrative and legal processes is apparent from the fact that applications to different authorities give different figures for the same item.
For a building that will accommodate the two Houses of Parliament, the appropriate protocol would have been for the President of India to lay the foundation stone
For instance, the number of trees on Plot 118 was shown as 333 when requesting the Ministry of Environment for clearance, but 404 when writing to the Delhi Forest Department. Similarly, the government originally proposed 12 buildings in the Central Vista area (ten central secretariat buildings, a Raksha Bhavan and a central conference centre) in their application to the Ministry of Environment.
The day after the TORs were cleared, they stated that there would be three additional buildings in the same area (viz the Prime Minister’s office and residence, an SPG office and the Vice President’s office and residence). Again, on December 17, 2020, another change was made.
These frequent changes in plans and upward revision of costs demonstrate the haste with which this massive project is being undertaken, without adequate internal consultations or application of mind. That Delhi is an earthquake prone zone makes the project doubly hazardous. Such a cavalier attitude is reprehensible.
Notwithstanding the specious reasoning as to why a new Parliament building is at all necessary, it is a matter of great dismay that at a time when we are faced with an economy in perilous decline and a pandemic which has brought untold misery to millions, the government has chosen to invest vast sums on a project which represents nothing but the pursuit of pomp and grandeur.
We have a public health infrastructure crying out for investment of public resources that could benefit substantially from the kind of investment planned for the Central Vista project; yet, for the government it seems that this wasteful and unnecessary project must take precedence over social priorities like health and education.
While the matter is in the courts and further construction activities are suspended, we urge the government to seize this as an opportunity to review the project in its entirety. We strongly believe that the project should not be implemented, particularly at this time. 
However, even if the government decides to go ahead in principle, the project must be subjected to critical scrutiny by citizens and independent experts, plans must be redrawn to make them compatible with environmental and heritage conservation standards and the due processes of law relating to such projects must be followed.
The essence of a democratic ethos is to listen to the voices of citizens and engage in dialogue with them. There has been a noticeable and worrisome tendency on the part of the government to disregard and ignore the arguments of those who disagree with the official perspective and, worse still, to criminalize dissent. We urge you to reverse these trends and not peremptorily dismiss all opposing viewpoints.
Satyameva Jayate.
---
Click here for list of signatories

Comments

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Solar energy funding dips 9% in 2023; 2024 'kicks off' with US$1 billion investment

By Lakshmitha Raj*  Solar energy tech companies have already secured slightly over US$1 billion in funding in 2024 (till Feb 7, 2024) after total funding into Solar Energy companies in India fell 9% to US$1.55B in 2023 from US$1.7B in 2022. A total of 39 $100M+ rounds have been closed till date, with Delhi leading the city-wise funding, followed by Gurugram and Mumbai.

Maize, bajra, jute, banana cultivation banned off West Bengal border: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk  West Bengal-based human rights defender Kirity Roy, who is secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, and is national convenor of the Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, second within few days, has bought to light one more case of trespassing and destruction of a fertile banana plantation by BSF personnel along the Indo-Bangladesh border, stating, despite a written complaint to the police has taken "no initiative".

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Jallianwala massacre: Why Indian govt hasn't ever officially sought apology from UK

By Manjari Chatterjee Miller*  The king of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, apologized in July 2023 for his ancestors’ role in the colonial slave trade. He is not alone in expressing remorse for past wrongs. In 2021, France returned 26 works of art seized by French colonial soldiers in Africa – the largest restitution France has ever made to a former colony. In the same year, Germany officially apologized for its 1904-08 genocide of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia and agreed to fund reconstruction and development projects in Namibia. .

Will Budget 2024 help empower city govts, make them India's growth engines?

By Soumyadip Chattopadhyay, Arjun Kumar* Cities in India are envisioned as engines of growth. Any meaningful long-term vision for India would be incomplete without planning for the cities and quite rightly, urbanization is considered as one of the country’s top developmental challenges. Realization of full potential of cities depends crucially on their ability to provide ‘enabling’ environment especially in terms of sustained provision of a wide range of urban infrastructure and services.