Apex court reserves verdict on building Commonwealth Games Village


New Delhi : The Supreme Court Wednesday reserved its verdict on the ongoing construction of the Commonwealth Games Village with multi-storey apartment blocks, coming up allegedly on the Yamuna riverbed here.

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A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan reserved its verdict after hearing daylong arguments supporting and opposing the construction of 1,068 super-deluxe flats in the two Village towers for the stay of 8,000 athletes and games officials from 71 countries for the mega event next year.

The bench, which also included Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice B.S. Chauhan, was hearing cross lawsuits filed by the government, supporting the construction, and by Magsaysay Award winner Rajendra Singh, better known as “water man”, and INTACH, opposing the same as it is allegedly coming up on the riverbed.

They all had come to the apex court challenging the Delhi High Court’s ruling last year.

The high court, while allowing the ongoing construction of the Village towers, had also ordered the formation of a panel headed by noted environmental expert R.K. Pachauri to keep a tab on ecological impact of the construction.

The government has come to the apex court opposing the formation of the Pachauri panel as it wanted no strings attached to the construction. Singh and INTACH want an outright end to the construction.

The apex court, while admitting the two sets of lawsuits last December, had allowed the construction to continue.

Wary that any adverse court ruling could jeopardise the fate of the 2010 Games, the government pressed a battery of seasoned legal hawks including its top law officer Attorney General Goolam E. Vahanvati, Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam, Additional Solicitor General Parag Tripathi and senior counsel T. Adhyarujuna.

Senior counsel Sanjay Parekh presented arguments for the other side. He argued that once the Games are over all these flats will be either gifted away or sold to influential people.

Government counsel argued that the project was ecologically sound and said it was adjacent to the Akshardham temple, whose construction was cleared by the environment and forests ministry considering that it was not on the riverbed.

What is true for the temple is true for the Village towers as well, they said.

Vahanvati also questioned the manner in which the two judges of the Delhi High Court had delivered their verdicts separately, one after the other, after hearing the matter together.

He said that after the senior judge of the high court’s bench, Justice A.K. Sikri, delivered his verdict, dismissing the challenge to the plea for stopping the construction, junior judge Rekha Sharma proceeded to deliver her own judgement separately.

In her separate judgement, she criticised Justice Sikri’s ruling on various grounds and proceeded to issue her own directions, Vahanvati said, adding that Justice Sikri, in turn, added a postscript to his ruling and said all the directions of Justice Sharma be deemed to be part of his own judgement as well.

Vahanvati pointed out that Justice Sikri categorically dismissed the plea to stop the construction on the grounds that the project was not on the riverbed or flood zone.

Justice Sikri in his ruling also noted that the government had all the necessary environmental approvals from various authorities and scientific bodies for the construction of the Games village in an area where the Akshardham temple had been built with the apex court’s approval, Vahanvati noted.

He added that Justice Sharma, subsequently, in her ruling wanted the Pachauri panel to examine whether the Games Village was being built on the riverbed.