Central Vista: HC nixes plea to halt ongoing construction, terms it ‘essential’ national project

New Delhi, May 31 (Bureau) The Delhi High Court on Monday set aside a petition seeking suspension of the ongoing construction of the Central Vista Project in the National Capital amid the Covid-19 pandemic. A division bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh dismissed public interest litigation seeking the temporary suspension of construction work on the project. The Delhi Management authority, the bench said, has nowhere questioned the construction work.

Moreover, the government had ensured that the workers were “staying on site” and complying with the Covid-19 appropriate behaviour. “As the workers are staying on site, no question of suspending the construction work arises in light of Covid-19,” the bench said. “This is a motivated petition preferred by the petitioner and not a genuine petition. The petition is dismissed with a cost of Rs 1,00,000, said the bench, adding that the Central Vista was a “vital, essential national project,’ the bench observed. The legality of the project has been upheld previously by the Supreme Court itself. They are supposed to complete the work by November 2021. Time is of the essence in the contract. The work has to be completed.

On May 17, the court had reserved the verdict on the plea filed by Anya Malhotra, a translator, and Sohail Hashmi, a historian and documentary filmmaker, who expressed concern over the “super spreading potential and threat” posed by the construction work at the project site for the workers. The Centre, the petitioners alleged, had also violated the disaster management authority circular as only emergency or essential services are allowed during the lockdown. Representing the petitioners, senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, submitted that the work, which formulates the subject matter of the petition, was awarded to Shapoorji Pallonji and Company in January 2021.

Terming Central Vista as the ‘Central Fortress of Death’, he further pointed out that the project is now completely off access and it is difficult to determine if the steps, so assured by the Centre, have been taken. There is no publicly available material. In their plea, the petitioners pointed out that as per the guidelines, all construction activities have to be stopped except the ones where labourers are residing on the site. The workers for the Vista project are being ferried by bus from Karol Bagh, Kirti Nagar, and Sarai Kale Khan, the petitioners alleged. The Central government, however, submitted that full arrangements have been made to ensure that the construction activities happen in compliance with the COVID protocol.

“It is submitted that in the meantime, a COVID compliant facility was installed at the worksite itself, to accommodate the 250 workers who had expressed their willingness to stay put and continue the aforesaid work. The facility provides for strict implementation of COVID protocol strictly and also adherence to COVID appropriate behaviour, such as sanitisation, thermal screening, physical/social distancing, and masking,” it was submitted. The affidavit also questioned the intentions of the petitioners as they chose only Central Vista Project while overlooking the construction work on projects of Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Public Works Department (PWD) and others. “The petitioner has chosen to be a ‘public-spirited citizen’ only about one project only speaks volumes about his intentions and motive behind filing the present petition that too suppressing all these facts,” the affidavit alleged.