The Delhi High Court on Monday, 17 May, reserved its judgment on a plea seeking a halt on the Central Vista redevelopment project, presently underway in the national capital amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh heard the matter. At the hearing, a video report by The Quint’s Asmita Nandy was brought on record by the petitioners’ counsel.
In his submissions, senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, representing the petitioners, pointed out that the construction actives were classified as essential services at a time when a curfew was in force in Delhi due to COVID-19.
WHAT DID THE PETITIONER’S COUNSEL SAY?
"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.”
Luthra also said that the petition was filed because they "were afraid that their dereliction was going to lead to an Auschwitz on the gardens of Delhi."
Luthra 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 Sidharth Luthra, representing the petitioners
The senior advocate also sought the Court’s permission to bring on record a video report from around the Central Vista, by The Quint’s Asmita Nandy.
WHAT DID THE SOLICITOR GENERAL, APPEARING FOR THE CENTRE, SAY?
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 construction projects happening 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 venemous but court cannot be a platform to use terms like Auschwitz. It was a concentration camp and such expressions are being used on this august platform.”Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General
The petitioners – Anya Malhotra, a translator, and Sohail Hashmi, a historian and documentary film-maker – sought the 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 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.
Meanwhile, dubbing the petition a "sheer abuse of the process of law”, the Centre had originally urged the Delhi High Court to scrap the petition with a fine.
(With inputs from Bar and Bench.)