HE Delhi High Court Monday rejected a petition seeking to halt the construction of the Central Vista Avenue, Redevelopment Project which the court found to be part and parcel of a larger project, namely, the Central Vista Project.
A division bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh also slapped costs of one lakh on the petitioners, calling the petition motivated.
Terming the Central Vista Project as one of national importance, the court said the work at the site had to be completed within a time-bound schedule.
“The petitioners have casually argued that the time limit be extended. 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 as mentioned in paragraph-8 thereof are not flouted or violated”, the court held.
“By no stretch of imagination, can it be said that Central Vista Project (which is the main project) or Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project is not essential. The Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project which is a sub-set of the main project is equally important and essential as the main project”, it said.
It went on to state that if this type of project was stopped by the court, the main project would not be completed within the stipulated time.
“Once the workers are staying at the site and all facilities have been provided …, Covid-19 protocols are adhered to and COVID-19 appropriate behaviour is being followed, there is no reason for this court while exercising powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India to stop the project”, the court said.
The Central Vista Project includes a new parliament, a refurbished North Block, South Block, new central government offices, such as the Central Secretariat, Central Conference facilities etc.
The petitioners had approached the court seeking a suspension of the construction work in light of the order issued by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority(DDMA) because of the second wave of Covid19. The DDMA order imposed restrictions on movement in the territory of NCT of Delhi w.e.f. 10 P.M. on 19th April 2021 to 5 A.M. on 26th April 2021. However, certain categories of individuals were exempted from the restrictions such as government officials, judicial officers, medical personnel, etc. and persons in commercial and private establishments providing essential services. This order was extended time-to-time.
Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, for the petitioner, contended that despite orders of the DDMA imposing restrictions on movement during the curfew, e-passes had been issued for vehicles engaged in the development and redevelopment of Central Vista Avenue to operate on the ground of the exigency of government work. This, Luthra argued, was in gross breach and violation of the orders by the DDMA and under an erroneous presumption that the construction of the project was an essential activity, whereas the project itself did not fall under the category of ‘essential’ services.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the Centre had opposed the petition.