Court Puts India’s $130 Million New Parliament Building on Hold

India’s Supreme Court temporarily halted work on a plan to build a new parliament house, a setback for Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose legacy will include the ambitious development.

A three-judge panel on Monday expressed unhappiness over the government not waiting for the court’s verdict on petitions ranging from land use to the environmental impact of the project, but allowed paperwork and other procedures -- including a groundbreaking ceremony due Thursday -- to continue. The federal government agreed to put on hold the felling of trees and any construction work until the judgment.

The order on the Central Vista project gives ammunition to opposition parties who have been attacking Modi for spending an estimated 9.7 billion rupees ($130 million) on the new parliament building when India’s economy has crashed into recession and millions are being pushed into poverty amid the coronavirus pandemic. Modi also plans to replace adjoining secretariat buildings, which will add to costs.

Petitions in the top court had questioned the project’s validity on grounds including land use and environment rules applicable for the heart of New Delhi that houses important ministries, the prime minister’s office and the president’s residence. The government says it is seeking to replace the century-old buildings with modern and efficient workspaces.

Tata Projects Ltd. won a contract to build the new parliament building, Press Trust of India reported in September, citing officials it didn’t name.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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