Central Vista project of public importance, work to continue: Delhi High Court

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KEY STORY

  • HOLDING Central Vista Project to be of national importance, the Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed a petition which had sought a stay on the construction taking place at Central Vista Avenue during the peak phase of Covid -19 pandemic and imposed a cost of Rs 1 Lakh on the petitioner.
  • The division bench of Chief Justice D.N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh said the work at Central Vista Avenue is part and parcel of the work at Central Vista Project and of vital public importance. The construction of Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment cannot be seen in isolation, it added
  • “Since the workers who are working at the project are staying on site, there is no question of issuing directions to suspend the work of Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project,” said the court, adding the DDMA in the April 19 order has not prohibited construction activity where labourers are residing on-site.
  • It further noted that the work at Central Avenue has to be completed before November and said time is essence of the contract. “The work has to be completed within time-bound schedule,” the bench said, adding once the workers are staying at the site and “all the facilities have been provided, COVID-19 protocols are adhered to and COVID-19 appropriate behaviour is being followed,” there is no reason for the court to stop the project.
  • “This a motivated petition preferred by the petitioner and is not a genuine Public Interest Litigation,” said the court, while imposing a cost on the petitioners.
  • The petition filed by Anya Malhotra, a translator, and Sohail Hashmi, historian and documentary filmmaker, stated that they are concerned by the “super spreading potential and threat” posed by the continuing construction at the project site and the plight of the workers who are being exposed to the infection on a daily basis. Centre in a written reply has said the petition deserves to be dismissed with “exemplary costs” on the ground “that it is an abuse of the process of law”.
  • Centre had sought dismissal of the petition and termed it as “one more attempt” to stall the project. It had also argued that the PIL was a facade to “satisfy some kind of a vanity in mind of certain individuals”. The government had also contended that the DDMA on April 19 has permitted construction activities during curfew where labourers are residing on-site.
  • “Such attempts are going on since the inception of the project under one pretext or the other and in one name or the other,” the union government had said in a reply to the petition, while arguing the case deserves to be dismissed with “exemplary costs” on the ground “that it is an abuse of the process of law”.

CONCLUSION

  • Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra, representing the petitioners, had argued the petitioners are in no manner seeking to overreach the Supreme Court judgement permitted the Central Vista and the prayer to stop the construction was limited to construction during the peak phase of pandemic.
  • “When we came to your lordships, we were afraid their dereliction was going to lead to an Auschwitz on the gardens of Central Delhi, on the gardens of India Gate,” Luthra argued on May 17.
  • Malhotra and Hashmi in the petitioner also had asked “why or how the project constitutes an ‘essential service’ merely because some executive mandated contractual deadline has to be met”.

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