The Delhi High Court on Monday, May 31, dismissed the plea seeking to halt the ongoing construction of the Central Vista project amid the surge in coronavirus cases in the country. The Bench headed by Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh ruled that the project was of national importance and could not be seen in isolation, reported Bar and Bench.
The Court further imposed a fine of ₹1 lakh on the petitioners, Anya Malhotra and Sohail Hashmi, as it found the plea 'motivated' and not a genuine public litigation interest.
"The construction has to be completed before November 2021. Time is of the essence. Once workers are staying at the site and all facilities are provided, and COVID-19 behaviour are adhered to, no reason to stop the project. It's not a genuine PIL," the Court observed.
Malhotra and Hashmi sought a stay on the construction due to the COVID-19 situation and how the site could be a potential super spreader, as hundreds of workers are exposed to the virus.
The plea further stated that there was no rationale behind classifying the project as an 'essential service', and was mandated only over the directions of some executive.
Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for petitioners, argued that the plea was filed because they 'were afraid that their dereliction was going to lead to an Auschwitz on the gardens of Delhi", The Quint quoted.
Luthra said that despite the curfew in the national capital, the Shapoorji Pallonji construction group was permitted to continue the work to meet the deadline. The advocate also refuted the government's claims of the site having all the COVID-19 facilities, including the non-availability of beds and tents for the workers.
Centre Refutes Claims
The government said that the construction is ongoing in and around Rajpath and India Gate and do not pertain to the new Parliament building or new offices. The current construction is of the public spaces visited by people and tourists at Raj Path, with toilet blocks, parking areas, pedestrian underpasses etc.
Contrary to the petition, the Centre said a medical facility at the site is available and that workers had access. The work complies with the COVID protocol, the Centre added.
It described the PIL as a 'facade to disguise something they always wanted to stop under one pretext or the other.'
While refusing to halt the construction, the Court said the labourers were residing nearby the site and therefore, 'no question of suspending the construction work arises'.
Earlier this month, the Centre had told the High Court that the petition was a 'sheer abuse of the process of law' and attempted to block the project. The Centre requested to dismiss the petition with a fine. The CourtCourt had reserved the judgment on May 17 and pronounced its verdict on Monday.