Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Delhi HC reserves judgement on plea seeking to halt Central Vista project

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The Delhi High Court on Monday reserved the judgement on a plea seeking direction to halt or suspend all construction activity of the Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project after the conclusion of the arguments of lawyers of all sides.

The Delhi High Court was hearing a plea seeking direction to halt/suspend all construction activity of the Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project in compliance with orders issued by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) during the subsistence of the peak phase of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The bench of Justices DN Patel and Jyoti Singh on Monday concluded the argument of lawyers of all sides and reserved its judgement on the plea.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the Union of India opposed the plea and said his arguments are based on facts and read out notification of April. He pointed out that the present petition is only concerned with Central Vista and not about other constructions.

Mehta argued that here, the public interest is “very selective” in particular regarding the Central Vista project matter. He said the petitioner is not concerned about other workmen and other construction works that are going on maybe 2-3 km away from there.

“There is something unusual, and beyond what is portrayed as public interest. This is a facade of PIL to disguise something they always wanted to stop under one pretext or the other,” Mehta submitted.

In its reply, the Centre had called the plea “sheer abuse of the process of law and is one more attempt to stall the project” and urged the High Court to dismiss the petition with exemplary costs on the ground that it is an abuse of the process of law.

“Such attempts are going on since the inception of the project under one pretext or the other and in one name or the other. The following facts will satisfy this court that the petitioner has, while taking refuge under the present situation, made an attempt to stall the project under the garb of ‘public interest’,” the Centre said in its affidavit.

After Mehta concluded his submission, Advocate Maninder Singh appearing for the Shapoorji Pallonji Group also opposed the PIL seeking suspension of construction activity for the Central Vista project.

Advocate Singh said the petition is not bonafide. He submitted that the petitioner’s lawyer had cited some media reports during his arguments, which are not admissible under law.

Meanwhile, senior advocate Siddharth Luthra appearing for petitioner submitted that Central Vista shall now be called “Central Fortress of Death”. He questioned if the deadline of November 30 is so sacrosanct that all of Article 19 and 21 should be thrown away.

On May 7, the Supreme Court urged the Delhi High Court to consider the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by petitioner Anya Malhotra seeking a stay on construction work of the Central Vista project in New Delhi amid the prevailing condition of coronavirus cases across the country and asked High Court to issue orders related to the matter.

In December 2020, the Central Vista Development project was inaugurated by the Prime Minister. The Project intends to revamp 86 acres of land in Delhi, which includes Rajpath, Parliament House, Rashtrapati Bhavan, India Gate, North Block and South Block, Shastri Bhavan and Udyog Bhavan.

The project envisages the construction of a new Parliament building, a common secretariat for central government offices, the Prime Minister’s office and residence, the Special Protection Group building and the Vice-President Enclave. The construction work for the project is being carried out since January 5, 2021, after the top court dismissed petitions challenging the project.

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