New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday reserved the judgment on a plea seeking suspension on all the construction at the Central Vista amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh was hearing the plea filed by Anya Malhotra, a translator, and Sohail Hashmi, a historian and documentary filmmaker, alleging the disaster management authority circular has been violated by the central government as only emergency or essential services are allowed during the lockdown.
Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra, representing the petitioners, submitted that the work, which formulates the subject matter of the petition, was awarded to Shapoorji Pallonji and Company in January 2021.
“There was a curfew imposed and everything had to be closed. Suddenly we find a very fascinating thing, a letter is written seeking permission to be granted to Shapoorji Pallonji in view of a stringent timeline of work,” Mr Luthra submitted.
Terming Central Vista as the ‘Central Fortress of Death’, he further pointed out that the project is now completely off access and it is difficult to determine if the steps, so assured by the Centre, have been taken. There is no publicly available material.
In their plea, the petitioners pointed out that as per the guidelines, all construction activities have to be stopped except the ones where laborers are residing on the site.
The workers for the Vista project are being ferried by bus from Karol Bagh, Kirti Nagar, and Sarai Kale Khan, the petitioners alleged.
The Central government, however, submitted that 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 behavior, such as sanitisation, thermal screening, physical/social distancing, and masking,” it was submitted.
The affidavit also questioned the intentions of the petitioners as they chose only Central Vista Project while overlooking the construction work on projects of Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Public Works Department (PWD) and others.
“The petitioner has chosen to be a ‘public-spirited citizen’ only about one project only speaks volumes about his intentions and motive behind filing the present petition that too suppressing all these facts,” the affidavit alleged.