New Delhi: The Central Vista Project is an essential project of national importance and needs to be completed in a time-bound manner, the Delhi High Court observed Monday, dismissing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking to put on hold the ongoing construction activity amidst the raging second wave of the pandemic.
A bench of Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh also slapped a fine of Rs one lakh on the petitioners for filing what the court described as a “motivated petition” and not a “genuine one.”
The fact that the petitioners approached the court against the Central Vista project only and did not question construction activities undertaken by other civic agencies pointed to their “ill-intent” and “lack of bonafide,” the court held.
Emphasising that “time is of the essence of the contract,” the bench chided the petitioners for requesting to extend the deadline of an “essential project” of “national importance.
The court said the agency carrying out the construction work followed all the curfew norms imposed by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority on 18 April.
“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 19th April, 2021 thereof are not flouted or violated,” the court ordered. The reasoning by the court was based on Centre’s affidavit filed in the case in response to the PIL.
What the petitioners said
Anya Malhotra, a translator, and Sohail Hashmi, a historian and documentary filmmaker, had moved the HC to halt the ongoing Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project, part of the main Central Vista Project.
The Rs 20,000-crore project involves the construction of a new Parliament, new residences for the prime minister and vice-president, and 10 new building blocks to accommodate government offices, as part of the Central Secretariat Project.
They argued that the project was not an essential activity and therefore, could be put on hold in light of the pandemic. Petitioners’ counsel, senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, had argued they were not seeking to overreach the Supreme Court’s January judgment that permitted the Central Vista, and that the plea to stop the construction was limited to the peak phase of the pandemic.
The Centre said that the petition is an attempt to halt the project with oblique motives.
The bench had reserved its order after hearing both sides on 17 May.
‘Public vitally interested in this project’
The court discarded the petitioners’ argument that the ongoing construction of a part of the main project is not an essential activity. And, if a sub-set of the main project is stopped midway then the main project cannot be completed within the stipulated time, the court observed.
“By no stretch of imagination, it can be said that the Central Vista Project (which is the main project) or Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project is not an essential project. The Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project which is a subset of the main project is equally important and essential as the main project,” noted the judgment.
Heavily relying on the Centre’s affidavit, the HC said the project was assigned to the agency and the work has to complete on or before November 2021. “Public is vitally interested in this project,” the judgment noted.
It accepted the Centre’s and the agency’s submission that adequate preventive measures had been put in place at the construction site, where arrangements are also made for the workers. Facilities provided at the site also include RT-PCR testing centres as well as isolation rooms in case of anyone getting infected.
All such steps indicate compliance with the DDMA orders and guidelines, the court remarked.
It said: “Looking to the respective stands of the Respondents and the measures taken on ground as well as the provisions of the various DDMA Orders, we find that the petitioners have not been able to substantiate the allegations made in the writ petition and/or the alleged breach or violation of the DDMA orders.”
In view of the aforesaid aspect of the matter, since the workers who are working at the project are staying on the site, no question of issuing directions to suspend the work of Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project, whatsoever, arises, held the court.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.