File Photo
File Photo

New Delhi: Defending ongoing work on Central Vista projects, the Central government on Tuesday told the Delhi High Court that the petition seeking to stop the construction of the project is "sheer abuse of the process of law and is one more attempt to stall the project."

The Centre also 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 Hon'ble 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.

"Further, it is important to note that about 400 workers were engaged at site of the aforementioned project well before the imposition of curfew on April 19, 2021. The workers are staying on the site and therefore the notification relied upon by the petitioner is fully complied with. The petitioner is fully aware about this fact and he has deliberately suppressed it in the petition," it said.

The Centre's reply came on a petition seeking to stop construction activity on the Central Vista Project in compliance with orders issued by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority during the subsistence of the peak phase of the pandemic.

The Central government submitted that while the arrangements for the stay of the workers was being made at the site, permission was sought for transportation of materials and labour from Sarai Kale Khan camp to the work site, including permission for the movement of supervisory staff. It is submitted that the said permission was granted on April 19, 2021, and was valid up to April 30, 2021.

It submitted that in the meantime, a COVID-19 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.

Moreover, the contractor has provided for a health insurance of all the concerned workers against COVID-19 and a separate facility for conducting the RT-PCR test, isolation and medical aid has also been provided at site, the Centre's affidavit said.

"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," read the affidavit.

"It is submitted that as per para 8 of DDMA order dated 19.04.2021, construction activities during curfew are permitted where labourers are residing on-site. Therefore, in view of the same, it is submitted that the present Writ Petition ought to be dismissed," it said.

Earlier in the day, the Delhi High Court said that it will hear tomorrow petition seeking to stop construction activity in Central Vista Project in compliance with orders issued by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority during the subsistence of the peak phase of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that the Centre has filed a reply to the petition.

A Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh noted that reply was not on record and directed to bring the Center's affidavit on record.

Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra, who was representing the petitioner, told the Court that the issue concern to a specific area where construction is going on unabated. On Monday, the matter was mentioned by senior advocate Siddharth Luthra for preponement of the date of hearing as it was earlier listed for May 17 for a detailed hearing.

The bench of Justice DN Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh on Monday asked him to file an application and we will hear the matter tomorrow. Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra also informed the bench about the Supreme Court direction in this regard.

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 in 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 of India. 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, India Gate 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 Supreme Court dismissed Petitions challenging the project.

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