Somewhere in Uttar Pradesh....

The Supreme Court stopped construction work going on at breakneck speed at Rs 685 crore Noida Park project, extending the freeze that covers other schemes launched by the UP government to construct memorials of Dalit icons, including CM Mayawati. Taking a serious view of Central Empowered Committee’s finding that the project needed environmental clearance from the ministry of environment and forests, a bench ordered stay on construction work at Noida Park. The bench rejected the argument of the state government whose counsel gave the example of Lodhi Garden in the capital to say that there was nothing improper about having structures inside a park. “Lodhi Garden was built when environmental clearance was not required. Moreover, it was built by a monarch. What do you want to say, you can also do the same,” asked the bench, which appeared to echo the sentiment in certain quarters that the construction of statues, particularly of the chief minister, was an arbitrary exercise and waste of taxpayer’s money. The Mayawati government lumped Nandan Kanan Park, Nature’s Trail, Children’s Park, Smriti Van and Navgrah Park spread over 75 acres (33.5 hectares) to lay out Noida Park— home to statues of a procession of Dalit icons. The contention of the UP counsel, senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi, that the court could order demolition of the construction if rules were found to have been violated also failed to move the court. “Is demolition a solution? If so, then why should money from public exchequer be wasted in this manner and why can’t construction work wait for two weeks,” the bench asked. Rohtagi was responding to the court’s poser: “What will happen if it is found later that construction was without proper environmental clearance?” Last week, the SC had lambasted the UP government for spending huge amount of money from the public exchequer on such projects and stayed construction work and installation of statues at all 24 memorials in Lucknow. The court, however, permitted plantation work in the park. The court said the stay on construction would operate till October 26 when the matter would be taken up for further hearing. Senior advocate Jayant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, pointed out that Salve had on Monday appeared for the state defending similar projects in Lucknow. But the bench reposed full faith in Salve saying he was discharging his job as an amicus curiae to assist the court and there could be no two views that he was doing a good job.

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