A plea was filed in the Supreme Court on Wednesday challenging the Delhi High Court’s May 31 verdict, which dismissed a petition seeking to suspend all construction activity of the Central Vista Avenue redevelopment during the COVID-19 pandemic while describing it as a “vital” and “essential” project of national importance.
The project entails construction activities on Rajpath and the surrounding lawns, from the India Gate to the Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi.
The main Central Vista project envisages building a new Parliament House, a new residential complex to house offices and the Prime Minister and the Vice President.
It will also have new office buildings and a Central Secretariat to accommodate various ministries’ offices.
The High Court had dismissed the plea saying it was “motivated” and filed with “ill-intent” and “lack of bonafides”.
The High Court had also imposed a cost of Rs 1 lakh on the petitioners who wanted the work to be halted in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, observing that it was “not a genuine public interest litigation”.
Advocate Pradeep Kumar Yadav on Wednesday filed the petition in the apex court challenging the High Court verdict.
Yadav, who was not a party to the proceedings before the High Court in the matter, has claimed that the court was not justified in holding that the plea was motivated and not a genuine public cause by drawing presumption and assumption in the absence of proved material facts and evidence.
It alleged that the High Court failed to appreciate that allowing a major construction work with a large number of labourers and workers to continue during the pandemic period is a serious public health concern.
It said the High Court was not justified in holding that the construction activities for the project are essential activities, especially when the entire activities of the service sector, the industrial sector and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) are fully suspended during the peak pandemic lockdown period.
In its verdict, the High Court had said, “The present petition has been filed to stop with immediate effect the work of the redevelopment of Central Vista Avenue. 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,” it had said.
The High Court had said that the legality of the project was already upheld by the Supreme Court and even the Delhi Disaster Management Authority allowed it to continue.
It had also said that from the affidavits filed by the Centre and the contractor — Shapoorji Pallonji and Company Pvt Ltd (SPCPL) — it was “clearly evident” that several facilities, like accommodation, medical attention and a COVID care centre, have been provided to the workers at the site.