Vista project essential, says HC, junks plea to halt work
The Delhi high court on Monday said the revamp of the city’s Central Vista was an “essential project of national importance” and dismissed, with a penalty of ₹1 lakh, a petition that sought to halt part of the redevelopment work during the pandemic.
The Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment project is a part of the larger Central Vista project, which includes a new Parliament building, the refurbishment of North and South Blocks, and the construction of new Central government offices, including a common Central Secretariat, and central conference facilities, among others.
“This work is part and parcel of Central Vista Project and of vital public importance. The construction of Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project cannot be seen in isolation. In fact, the whole Central Vista Project is an essential project of national importance, where the sovereign functions of Parliament are also to be conducted. Public is vitally interested in this project,” a bench of chief justice DN Patel and justice Jyoti Singh said.
Calling the petition “motivated”, the court imposed a cost of ₹1 lakh on the petitioners -- Anya Malhotra, a translator, and Sohail Hashmi, a historian and documentary filmmaker -- who sought to halt the ongoing redevelopment work on the Central Vista avenue, which includes both sides of Rajpath, on the grounds that the work could become a superspreader event. The petitioners contended that the project was not an essential activity and, therefore, could be put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic.
While holding that the petitioners selectively chose only one project though several other agencies -- such as the CPWD, NBCC, DMRC, PWD, IICC and DDA -- were undertaking construction projects in Delhi, the bench said the legality of the project has already been upheld by the Supreme Court on January 5. It also said that “time is of the essence” and the work has to be completed by November 2021.
“It is obvious that petitioners have selectively chosen only one project which is of national importance... and parcel of the larger project, namely, Central Vista Project, legality whereof has already been upheld by the Supreme Court in the judgment dated Jan 5th... We are of the view that this is a motivated petition preferred by the petitioners,” the bench said in a 23-page judgment, adding that the petitioners have not been able to substantiate the allegations or the alleged breach or violation of Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) orders.
Senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, appearing for the petitioners, had contended that exceptions were made for this project and permission was also sought for ferrying the workers during the peak of the pandemic’s second wave in April.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, for the Centre, argued that the plea was a “facade of PIL created to disguise something which they wanted to stop under one pretext or the other”.
On Monday, the bench said that “since the workers who are working at the project are staying on site, there is no question of issuing directions to suspend the work of Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project”.
“We completely disagree with the senior counsel appearing for the petitioners that the project is not an essential activity. The project in question is of vital importance and essential,” the court said.
In orders issued on April 8 and April 19, DDMA allowed construction activities if the workers were residing on site.