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Plea Against Central Vista Project : Supreme Court Asks Delhi High Court To Consider Petitioners' Request For Early Hearing

Srishti Ojha
7 May 2021 8:48 AM GMT
Plea Against Central Vista Project : Supreme Court Asks Delhi High Court To Consider Petitioners Request For Early Hearing
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The Supreme Court on Friday permitted the petitioners challenging the construction activities of the Central Vista project amid the COVID19 second wave to make a request before the Delhi High Court for an early listing of the case."We hope and trust that the High Court shall consider the request of early hearing and pass an order", a bench comprising Justices Vineet Saran and Dinesh...

The Supreme Court on Friday permitted the petitioners challenging the construction activities of the Central Vista project amid the COVID19 second wave to make a request before the Delhi High Court for an early listing of the case.

"We hope and trust that the High Court shall consider the request of early hearing and pass an order", a bench comprising Justices Vineet Saran and Dinesh Maheshwari said in the order.

The petitioners Anya Malhotra and Sohail Hashmi had earlier approached the Delhi High Court. However, the High Court had adjourned the matter to May 17, without issuing notice.

Aggrieved by the High Court's adjournment, the petitioners approached the Supreme Court.

Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for the petitioners, said that the grievance was with respect to the fact that the High Court's adjournment was long considering the crisis caused by the COVID19 pandemic.

Mr.Luthra pointed out to the bench that though a lockdown has been imposed in the National Capital Territory to control the pandemic spread, the authorities have exempted the construction activities of Central Vista saying that it was a time-bound project with a stringent deadline of November 30.

"...we are faced with a peculiar situation. The High Court defers the matter to May 17 without even calling for a response..we are facing a humanitarian crisis,..if the vista project is deferred by four or 6 weeks, nothing will happen. We have shut off the IPL..the spread of the virus is unprecedented..(May)17th is when we are going to peak", the senior counsel for the petitioners submitted.

"I really cannot be understand how a construction can be an essential activity when we have a health emergency...it is endangering lives of workers... putting pressure on the health system", Mr.Luthra continued.

"The only request is, since there is a public health emergency, let the matter be taken on the 10th(of May)", he prayed.

Opposing the plea, Solicitor General of India Mr.Tushar Mehta said that it will set a very wrong precedent to entertain a special leave petition against an order of adjournment.

"...such a person filing a PIL and filing an SLP against an adjournment raises a serious questions..it sets a wrong precedent, if adjournments are subject to SLPs...there appears to be some interest operating..", Mr.Mehta said, questioning the credentials of the petitioners.

However, the bench said that it will not go into the questions of petitioners' credentials. The bench also said that it will not look into the merits of the matter as the High Court is already seized of it.  But the bench added that it can request the High Court to consider the matter early, having regard to the emergency situation.

After hearing Mr.Luthra and Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, the division bench comprising Justices Vineet Saran and Dinesh Maheshwari passed the following order :

"...we are of the opinion, since the matter is pending before the High Court, and the impugned order is only an order of adjournment, we would not be inclined to enter in to the merits of the case. In the given circumstances, we request Shri Luthra to make a request before the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court on Monday to take up the matter as early as possible, because, according to Luthra, the is extreme urgency in the matter.

We hope and trust that the HC shall consider request of early hearing and pass and order".

Petitioner's plea

Calling it "relentless, unmindful and reckless act" of the Union of India and Central Public Works Department, the plea states that such an act of carrying on the Project posing threat to the lives of the citizens of Delhi has "the potential of being a super spreader and is in clear breach and violation of the Orders passed by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority."

"The construction of the Project cannot be equated to an essential activity. There is no exigency whatsoever in the construction of the Project and there is no reason why the same cannot be suspended at a time when Delhi is facing an unprecedented health crisis. There is no rational basis to differentiate between workers engaged in the construction of the Project and workers engaged in any other construction work. It cannot be stated that the construction work being carried out as a part of the Project is any more essential than the construction of other public services", the plea states further.

In the event that the work is stopped,  the plea seeks directions  to ensure that all workers are paid their full wages, notwithstanding suspension work, and to pay and release arrears of wages to the workers/laborers engaged in the Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project.

In January this year, the Supreme Court, by 2:1 majority, had rejected the challenge made to various clearances given to the Rs 20,000 crore Central Vista Project, which involves construction of a new Parliament building and a revamp of the national capital's central administrative area.

While Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari allowed the project to go ahead, Justice Sanjiv Khann dissented saying, inter-alia, public consultations were necessary before finalizing approvals.

Click here to download the Order


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