Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed a plea seeking direction to halt ongoing constriction of the Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project in the national capital in view of the COVID-19 pandemic and slapped a fine of Rs one lakh against the petitioner saying that this is not public interest litigation.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice of Delhi Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh said that the time is the essence and the project has to be completed before November 2021, which is of national interest.
The Court also noted that workers are provided with facilities and even COVID-19 behavior is followed.
The Court said that it has found no reason to stop the project. It noted the project is of vital importance and can not be seen in isolation. The court imposed Rs one lakh fine on petitioners and said it is a motivated plea and not a PIL.
The Court also held that Central Vista construction work is an essential project of national importance.
Delhi HC while refusing to stay construction work, said the workers are staying on-site, no question of suspending the construction work arises, and the concerned Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) order in question nowhere prohibits construction work.
The Court had kept the order reserved after the conclusion of the argument of lawyers of all sides.
The Court was hearing 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 during the subsistence of the peak phase of the COVID pandemic.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the Union of India 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 had 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," Mehta had submitted.
In its reply, the concerned 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 had said in its affidavit.
Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra appeared for the petitioner had showed various DDMA orders and submitted that Central Vista should not be called as it is so, it shall now be called "Central Fortress of Death". He questioned if the deadline of November 30 is so sacrosanct that all of Article 19 and 21 should be thrown away.
On May 7, the Supreme Court had urged the Delhi High Court to consider the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by petitioner Anya Malhotra seeking a stay on construction work of the Central Vista project in New Delhi amid the prevailing condition of coronavirus cases across the country and asked High Court to issue orders related to the matter.
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 and 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.