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

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. 

'Anti-poor stand': Even British wouldn't reduce Railways' sleeper and general coaches

By Anandi Pandey, Sandeep Pandey*  Probably even the British, who introduced railways in India, would not have done what the Bhartiya Janata Party government is doing. The number of Sleeper and General class coaches in various trains are surreptitiously and ominously disappearing accompanied by a simultaneous increase in Air Conditioned coaches. In the characteristic style of BJP government there was no discussion or debate on this move by the Indian Railways either in the Parliament or outside of it. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Why convert growing badminton popularity into an 'inclusive sports opportunity'

By Sudhansu R Das  Over the years badminton has become the second most popular game in the world after soccer.  Today, nearly 220 million people across the world play badminton.  The game has become very popular in urban India after India won medals in various international badminton tournaments.  One will come across a badminton court in every one kilometer radius of Hyderabad.  

Faith leaders agree: All religious places should display ‘anti-child marriage’ messages

By Jitendra Parmar*  As many as 17 faith leaders, together for an interfaith dialogue on child marriage in New Delhi, unanimously have agreed that no faith allows or endorses child marriage. The faith leaders advocated that all religious places should display information on child marriage.

How embracing diversity enriched my life, brought profound sense of joy

By Mike Ghouse*  If you can shed the bias towards others, you'll love the connections with every human that God or his systems have created. This gives a sense of freedom and brings meaning and joy to life. Embracing and respecting how people dress, eat, and practice their beliefs becomes an enriching experience.

Ayurveda, Sidda, and knowledge: Three-day workshop begins in Pala town

By Rosamma Thomas*  Pala town in Kottayam district of Kerala is about 25 km from the district headquarters. St Thomas College in Pala is currently hosting a three-day workshop on knowledge systems, and gathered together are philosophers, sociologists, medical practitioners in homeopathy and Ayurveda, one of them from Nepal, and a few guests from Europe. The discussions on the first day focused on knowledge systems, power structures, and epistemic diversity. French researcher Jacquiline Descarpentries, who represents a unique cooperative of researchers, some of whom have no formal institutional affiliation, laid the ground, addressing the audience over the Internet.

Hindutva economics? 12% decline in manufacturing enterprises, 22.5% fall in employment

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The messiah of Hindutva politics, Narendra Modi, assumed office as the Prime Minister of India on May 26, 2014. He pledged to transform the Indian economy and deliver a developed nation with prosperous citizens. However, despite Modi's continued tenure as the Prime Minister, his ambitious electoral promises seem increasingly elusive. 

Banned Maoist party protests in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, claims support across globe

By Harsh Thakor*  Despite being a banned and designated as terrorist organisation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act since 2009, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) is said to have successfully implemented a one-day bandh across Kolhan division in Jharkhand on July 10th, with repurcussions in the neighbouring Chhattisgarh. The bandh was called to protest against alleged police brutality in the Kolhan-Saranda region.