Stressing that the Central Vista is an “essential and vital” project of national importance, the Delhi high court on Monday dismissed a PIL and instead slapped a Rs 1 lakh fine on the petitioners for seeking to stop the construction activity during the pandemic.
The HC accepted the Centre’s stand that all Covid-related precautions have been taken to protect the workers engaged on the project site from the viral infection, and noted that “we see no reason to stop the work” since these workers are staying onsite during the curfew in compliance with DDMA guidelines.
A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh said “challenge to the ongoing construction activity with regard to one particular project, is a pointer to the ill-intent and lack of bonafides of the petitioners in filing the present petition”. They pointed out that the legality of the project had already been upheld by the Supreme Court in January.
Once the SC gave its nod, the work has to be completed within time-bound schedule, the bench noted, adding that “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 are not flouted or violated”. The HC also rejected the stand of the two petitioners Anya Malhotra and Sohail Hashmi that the work is not “essential activity”.
By no stretch of imagination, the HC observed, can it be said that “Central Vista Project or Central Vista avenue redevelopment project is not an essential project. The Central Vista avenue redevelopment project, which is a subset of the main project, is equally important and essential as the main project”. It said once a court is satisfied that workers are staying at the site and all facilities have been provided by the contractor, “Covid-19 protocols are adhered to and Covid-19 appropriate behaviour is being followed, there is no reason for this court to stop the project”.
The bench took note that petitioners casually argued that the time limit can be extended. “Such kind of arguments cannot be accepted by this court,” the HC said, noting that “we are of the view that this is a motivated petition preferred by the petitioners and not a genuine PIL. In view of that, the petition is dismissed with costs of Rs 1 lakh to be deposited by the petitioners with the Delhi State Legal Services Authority within four weeks from today.”
The bench noted that several other agencies like CPWD, NBCC, DMRC, PWD, IICC and DDA are undertaking construction projects in Delhi and said “it is obvious that petitioners have selectively chosen only one project which is of national importance, at a vital place where Republic Day celebrations are held in Delhi and is a part and parcel of the larger project, namely Central Vista Project”.