The Delhi High Court on Monday, May 31, refused to halt the ongoing construction work for the Central Vista Projects. The Bench headed by Chief Justice DN Patel dismissed the plea asking the court to stop the Central Vista construction work citing a surge in the COVID-19 cases in the national Capital.
The court had reserved the judgment on the issue on May 17. After 16 days, the court finally pronounced its verdict, giving a green signal for the construction to continue.
A Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh ruled that the work currently ongoing is part and parcel of the project and is of vital importance and can’t be seen in isolation.
Central Vista Is Of National Importance
The court dismissed the plea moved by Anya Malhotra on the ground that the Central Vista project is of “public importance” and the ongoing construction work is therefore of “vital importance”.
“It is an essential project of national importance. The public is vitally interested in the project.”Delhi High Court
The court further said that petition is not a genuine public interest litigation but a "motivated" one and proceeded to impose a cost of Rs 1 lakh on the petitioners
“They have to complete the construction before November 2021. Time is of essence. Once workers are staying at site and all facilities are provided and COVID-19 behaviour are adhered to, there is no reason to stop the project. This is not a genuine PIL.”Delhi High Court
The Petitioner's Case
The petitioners in the instant case, Anya Malhotra and Sohail Hashmi, had sought a stay on the construction of Central Vista due to the COVID-19 situation in the national Capital and the threat of the site becoming a potential super spreader due to the construction work.
The plea contended that there was no rationale for classifying the Central Vista Project as an “essential service”, merely because some executive mandated contractual deadline was ostensibly required to be met.
Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, who was appearing for the petitioners, argued that the petition was filed because they "were afraid that their dereliction was going to lead to an Auschwitz on the gardens of Delhi”.
“There was a curfew imposed and everything had to be closed. Suddenly, we find a very fascinating thing: a letter is written seeking permission to Shapoorji Pallonji in view of the stringent timeline of work.”Siddharth Luthra
Luthra also disputed the government’s claims of the worksite having all COVID-19 facilities and adherence to COVID protocol.
“There is no bed; there is no bedding. My lords will see, empty tents on April 24. And they expect your lordships to believe this?Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, representing the petitioners
Meanwhile, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, dubbed the PIL a "facade to disguise something they always wanted to stop under one pretext or the other".
About the construction projects in Delhi, Mehta said: “Public interest is very selective in this case. They don't care about other workmen 2 or 3 km away.”
He said that unlike what the petitioner claimed, there is a medical facility at the construction site and that the workers will have access to it.
Everyone has right to criticise and be venomous, but courts cannot be a platform to use terms like Auschwitz. It was a concentration camp and such expressions are being used on this august platform.”Solicitor General Tushar Mehta