Delhi high court defers hearing on plea seeking suspension of Central Vista project work amid Covid-19 surge
The Delhi high court on Tuesday deferred the hearing on a plea seeking immediate suspension of construction activity in Central Vista during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic to protect life of the workers and those involved in the project.
The petitioners told the court that they are “deeply concerned by the super spreading potential and threat posed by the continuing construction activity at the Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project” and appealed to the court to look into the plight of the workers who, the petitioners claimed, are being exposed to the infection on a “daily basis while working and that too without payment.”
The petition also questioned the decision of the deputy commissioner of police of New Delhi to issue movement passes under the ‘essential services’ category to vehicles engaged in the development and redevelopment of the Central Vista project and allow them to operate during curfew and lockdown in view of ‘exigencies of government work’.
A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh said that it wanted to study the Supreme Court judgement on Central Vista redevelopment project and set May 17 as the next date of hearing.
Additional solicitor general Chetan Sharma representing the Centre opposed the plea while saying that the apex court had already given a nod to the project.
The Supreme Court, by a 2:1 majority in January this year, approved the redevelopment plan for Central Vista that included construction of a new Parliament building and a common central secretariat.
However, senior advocate Siddharth Luthra representing the petitioner told the HC that they were only seeking interim suspension of the construction work at the site of the Central Vista in wake of the surge in number coronavirus diseases in the national capital region.
He said that construction does not come in essential category and will put the construction workers at risk.
“The construction work 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 petitioners submitted.
The petition quoted multiple media reports to claim that the labourers engaged in the construction work of the ambitious project were being ferried in buses from adjoining areas, in violation of the measures imposed by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) to check the spread of the virus.
The Centre's decision to continue with the construction of the Central Vista project received flak from several political leaders. Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi has slammed the government for enlisting the project under "essential services". He urged the NDA government to work with a vision to curb the growing Covid cases and not spend money on Central Vista redevelopment project at a time when the country was reeling under the pandemic that has almost choked the healthcare system.
“Central Vista -not essential. Central Govt with a vision- essential,” he had tweeted on April 28.
Delhi is reeling under the devastating fourth wave of Covid-19 which has pushed the already burdened healthcare system to a breaking point. Hospitals are inundated with patients leading to a shortage of beds, ventilators and oxygen cylinders. With the continuous rising numbers, there is almost a seven-day waiting period if a person is trying to get the Covid-19 test done at their home.
The national capital on Monday reported as many as 18,043 new coronavirus cases and 448 deaths in the last 24 hours, Delhi's daily health bulletin informed.