Dubbing the petition seeking a halt on the construction activities in relation to the Central Vista redevelopment project a "sheer abuse of the process of law”, the Centre asked the Delhi High Court to scrap the petition with a fine, reported NDTV on Tuesday, 11 May.
The Centre’s opposition to the plea against the ongoing redevelopment work comes amid a crippling second wave of COVID-19 that has resulted in widespread deaths and devastation.
According to reports, the government denied a multitude of allegations made in the petition, and unleashed some of its own against the petitioners.
The court said it will hear the petition on Wednesday.
THE CENTRE’S CLAIMS
The Centre, in an affidavit filed before the Delhi High Court, through the Executive Engineer of Central Vista Project, claimed:
- The project is not what is referred to as "the Central Vista project" but is "limited to the redevelopment of Central Vista Avenue or Rajpath", where the Republic Day parade is held. "It may be noted that the scope of work is as follows: (i.) Providing public amenities like toilet blocks, paths, parking space, vendorzone; 3 (ii.) Making four pedestrian underpasses below Janpath and C-Hexagon Road. (iii.) Improvement of canals, bridges, lawns, lights etc (sic)," the Centre further stated.
- A COVID-compliant facility was installed at the worksite itself, to accommodate the 250 workers who had expressed their willingness to stay put and continue the aforesaid work and the facility provides for strict implementation of COVID protocol. The contractor has provided for health insurance of all the workers concerned against COVID-19 and a separate facility for conducting RT-PCR test, isolation and medical aid has also been provided at site.
- About 400 workers were hired well before the 19 April curfew. Permission was also granted on 19 April (the day curfew was imposed) for transporting materials and labour from another part of the city to the work site, and was valid till 30 April.
THE CENTRE’S ALLEGATIONS AGAINST PETITIONERS
Meanwhile, with regard to the petition and the petitioners, the Centre alleged:
- The petition has "resorted to falsehood and suppression of material facts as all on site arrangements were in the public domain”.
- "The fact that out of all these construction activities going on simultaneously for different projects by different agencies, the petitioner has chosen to be a 'public spirited citizen' only with regard to one project only speaks volumes about his intentions and motive behind filing the present petition that too suppressing all these facts.”
- That the petitioner approached the Supreme Court when the hearing was adjourned at the High Court for a week raised questions on whether the petitioner was a "bona fide litigant”.
The petitioners – Anya Malhotra, a translator, and Sohail Hashmi, a historian and documentary filmmaker – have sought a halt on construction due to the dismal COVID-19 situation in the national capital.
Amid mounting tragedy, the construction work is also a potential COVID-19 super spreader, the plea noted.
The petitioners have also submitted that they do not intend to overreach the Supreme Court judgment of January, Bar and Bench reported, adding that they were only seeking a temporary halt on the work owing to the public health crisis in the national capital area.
The plea highlighted that there existed no rationale for classifying the Central Vista Project as an “essential service” during this time, just because there is an executive-mandated contractual deadline.
The petition states, "In the current dismal scenario, this project has no feature of “essentiality” for and/or of “service” to the public at large. In the absence of provisions for on-site accommodation in this project, the impugned acts are totally contrary to and in gross violation of the orders issued in public interest by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority," Bar and Bench reported.
INDIA’S COVID TALLY
India on Tuesday, 11 May, reported 3,29,942 new coronavirus cases, taking the tally in the country to 2,29,92,517. The death toll increased by 3,876 to 2,49,992.
(With inputs from NDTV and Bar and Bench.)
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