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"Project Has No Feature Of Essentiality Of Service To Public At Large": Plea In Delhi High Court Seeks Suspension Of Central Vista Redevelopment Project

Shreya Agarwal
4 May 2021 8:20 AM GMT
Central Vista Project

A petition has been filed in the Delhi High Court seeking suspension of all kinds of construction activity in relation to the Central Vista Redevelopment Project in compliance of the orders issued by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority in wake of the covid 19 surge in the national capital.

The petition moved by Anya Malhotra and Sohail Hashmi highlights that the construction of the aforesaid project has a "super spreading potential and threat" to the workers who are being exposed to the infection on a daily basis while working and that too without payment.

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.

During the course of hearing today before the division bench comprising of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh, while the bench showed it's non inclination of issuing notice in the plea, the Bench listed the matter for further hearing on May 17.

The petition was vehemently opposed by ASG Chetan Sharma appearing on behalf of the Centre whereas Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra appeared for the petitioner.

The petition seeks the following prayers:

-Issue a Writ/Order/Direction in the nature of mandamus and command Respondent No. 1 & 2 to forthwith halt / suspend all construction activity of the Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project awarded to Respondent No. 4 in compliance with Orders issued by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority during the subsistence of the peak phase of the pandemic.

- Issue a Writ/Order/Direction in the nature of mandamus commanding and directing Respondent No. 3 to forthwith withdraw and rescind the Movement Pass dated 19.04.2021.

- In the event that this Hon'ble Court is pleased to grant the relief prayed for in Prayer (i) above, issue directions toRespondent No. 1, 2 and 4 to ensure that all workers are paidtheir full wages, notwithstanding suspension work, and to payand release arrears of wages to the workers/laborers engagedin the Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project.

The Supreme Court in January this year upheld the Central Government's plan for construction of the Central Vista project and the government's proposal to construct a new Parliament in Lutyen's Delhi.

Bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna pronounced the judgement, with Justices Khanwilkar and Maheshwari forming the majority, and with Justice Khanna pronouncing a separate judgement.

The court had, on November 5, 2020, reserved judgment on these batch of petitions challenging the Rs. 20,000 crore Central Vista project, involving renovation and redevelopment of approximately 86 acres of land in the heart of Lutyens Delhi, marked by structures like the Parliament, Rashtrapati Bhavan, India Gate, North Block and South Block amongst others.

Edited by Nupur Thapliyal

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