By Sushil Batra
New Delhi [India], May 31 (ANI): The Delhi High Court on Monday said that the Central Vista project is an "essential project of national importance", where the sovereign functions of Parliament are also to be conducted, and added that the public is "vitally interested" in the project.
The bench of Justices DN Patel and Jyoti Singh dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking to stop with immediate effect the work of the redevelopment of Central Vista Avenue.
While dismissing the plea, the bench noted, "The construction of Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment project cannot be seen in isolation and the work has to be completed within time-bound schedule."
The bench in its detailed judgement stated that petitioners have casually argued that the time limit be extended.
"Such kind of arguments cannot be accepted by this Court, keeping in view that the construction activity of this essential project or of a project of national importance cannot be stopped especially when the conditions imposed by the order of the DDMA dated April 19, 2021, is not flouted or violated," it said.
"Once the workers are staying at the site and all facilities have been provided by respondent, COVID-19 protocols are adhered to and COVID-19 appropriate behaviour is being followed. Thus, there is no reason for this Court while exercising powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India to stop the project," the bench observed.
The High Court said that the plea, filed by Anya Malhotra and Sohail Hashmi, is a "motivated petition" and not a genuine PIL.
"We are of the view that this is a motivated petition preferred by the petitioners and not genuine PIL. In view of that petition is dismissed with costs of Rs 1 lakh to be deposited by the petitioners with the Delhi State Legal Services Authority within four weeks from today," the bench said.
The Court has passed the judgement on a plea seeking direction to halt/suspend all construction activity of the Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project in compliance with orders issued by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) during the subsistence of the peak phase of the COVID pandemic.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Central government, had opposed the plea and pointed out that the present petition is only concerned with Central Vista and not about other constructions.
Mehta had argued that here, the public interest is "very selective" in particular regarding the Central Vista project matter. He said the petitioner is not concerned about other workmen and other construction works that are going on maybe 2-3 km away from there.
"There is something unusual, and beyond what is portrayed as public interest. This is a facade of PIL to disguise something they always wanted to stop under one pretext or the other," he had submitted.
In its reply, the Concern Ministry of Union had called the plea "sheer abuse of the process of law and is one more attempt to stall the project" and urged the High Court to dismiss the petition with exemplary costs on the ground that it is an abuse of the process of law.
"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 following facts will satisfy this Court that the petitioner has while taking refuge under the present situation, made an attempt to stall the project under the garb of 'public interest'," the Centre said in its affidavit.
Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, who appeared for the petitioner, had shown various DDMA orders and submitted that Central Vista shall now be called "Central Fortress of Death". He questioned if the deadline of November 30 is so sacrosanct that all of Articles 19 and 21 should be thrown away.
In December 2020, the Central Vista Development project was inaugurated by the Prime Minister. The project intends to revamp 86 acres of land in Delhi, which includes Rajpath, Parliament House, Rashtrapati Bhavan, India Gate, North Block, South Block, Shastri Bhavan, and Udyog Bhavan.
The project envisages the construction of a new Parliament building, a common secretariat for Central government offices, the Prime Minister's office, and residence, the Special Protection Group building and the Vice-President Enclave.
The construction work for the project is being carried out since January 5, 2021, after the top court dismissed petitions challenging the project. (ANI)