The Central government has opposed the plea before Delhi High Court seeking halt on construction activities in relation to the Central Vista redevelopment project.
The Central government in an affidavit filed through Executive Engineer of Central Vista Project, Rajiv Sharma told the Court that the construction activities currently ongoing in and around Rajpath and India Gate do not pertain to new parliament building or new offices for the Central government.
Instead, the current construction is with respect to public spaces visited by people and tourists at Raj Path and includes building public amenities like new toilet blocks, parking spaces, and pedestrian underpasses below the C-Hexagon etc.
“It is respectfully submitted that the scope of work for the project in question is not what is colloquially referred to as “the Central Vista Project” (which includes Parliament, refurbishment of North Block, South Block, construction of new offices for central government i.e. Common Central Secretariat, Central conference facilities, etc.). The scope of work which is a subject matter of the present petition is limited to the redevelopment of Central Vista Avenue (i.e., both side of the Rajpath) where Republic Day Celebrations are held annually,” the affidavit said.
This is very important public space and most widely visited by common public and tourists in Delhi, it added.
“It may be noted that the scope of work is as follows: (i.) Providing public amenities like toilet blocks, paths, parking space, vendor zone; 3 (ii.) Making four pedestrian underpasses below Janpath and C-Hexagon Road. (iii.) Improvement of canals, bridges, lawns, lights etc.,” it further stated.
The petitioner despite being aware of the same has mischievously suppressed it, the affidavit said.
The affidavit also said full arrangements have been made to ensure that the construction activities happen in compliance with the COVID protocol.
“It is submitted that in the meantime, a COVID compliant facility was installed at the worksite itself, to accommodate the 250 workers who had expressed their willingness to stay put and continue the aforesaid work. The facility provides for strict implementation of COVID protocol strictly and also adherence to COVID appropriate behaviour, such as sanitization, thermal screening, physical/social distancing and masking,” it was submitted.
More importantly, it must be noted that pursuant to there being a dedicated medical facility at the concerned work site, the workers will have access to immediate medical attention and proper care which would otherwise have been extremely difficult, in these unprecedented times considering the burden on our existing medical infrastructure, the affidavit added.
The affidavit also questioned the bona fides of the petitioners, stating that Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Public Works Department (PWD) etc. are also engaged in construction activities across Delhi though the petitioner has chosen to overlook the same.
“The very fact that out of all these construction activities going on simultaneously for different projects by different agencies, the petitioner has chosen to be a “public-spirited citizen” only with regard to one project only speaks volumes about his intentions and motive behind filing the present petition that too suppressing all these facts,” the affidavit alleged.
The Centre, therefore, contended that the very fact that the petitioner is selective about his “public interest” itself disentitles him from being granted any relief and the petition deserves to be dismissed as motivated by some undisclosed interest under the garb of “public interest”.
The petitioners in the present case, Anya Malhotra and Sohail Hashmi, sought halt on the construction due to the COVID-19 situation in the national capital and the threat posed by the construction work as a potential super spreader.
The petitioners submitted that they do not intend to overreach the Supreme Court judgment of January 5 which had given a green signal for the project.
The plea contended that there was no rationale for classifying the Central Vista Project as an “essential service”, merely because some executive mandated contractual deadline was ostensibly required to be met.
“In the current dismal scenario, this Project has no feature of “essentiality” for and/or of “service” to the public at large. In the absence of provision of on-site accommodation in this Project the impugned acts are totally contrary to and in gross violation of the Orders issued in the public interest by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority,” the petition submitted.
The Delhi High Court had earlier kept the matter for hearing on May 17 without passing any orders. The petitioner had then approached the Supreme Court against the same contending that the urgency and public health emergency sought to be addressed by the petition would stand defeated by adjourning the matter to May 17.
The Supreme Court had on May 7 declined to interfere but granted liberty to the petitioners to mention the matter before the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court for early hearing.
Pursuant to the same, a mentioning was made before the Chief Justice on Monday who proceeded to list the case on Tuesday.
When the case came up for hearing on Tuesday, it was adjourned for Wednesday since Centre’s reply was not on record.
The Centre’s redevelopment project in the Central Vista area of Lutyens Delhi envisages a new Parliament House, a new residential complex that will house the Prime Minister and the Vice-President, as well as several new office buildings and a Central Secretariat to accommodate Ministry offices.
A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court had, on January 5, given its green signal to the project, rejecting a batch of petitions challenging the scheme for alleged violation of land use and environmental norms.
The petitioners in the instant case submitted that they do not intend to overreach the Supreme Court judgment of January 5 which had given green signal for the project.
They said that they are merely seeking a temporary halt on the construction work on account of the present public health crisis in the national capital.
The plea contended that there is no rationale for classifying the Central Vista Project as an “essential service”, merely because some executive mandated contractual deadline is ostensibly required be met.