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Saturday, June 3, 2023

“Ill-intent, motivated”: Delhi HC declines to stop construction at Central Vista, slaps Rs 1 Lakh cost

The Delhi High Court on Monday said the petitioners seeking to halt construction activity in connection with Central Vista redevelopment project had “ill-intent and lack of bonafides”, as it junked their plea and slapped Rs 1Lakh cost on them.

A bench comprising Justice Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh did not mince words in questioning the genuineness of the petition. “We are of the view that this is a motivated petition preferred by the petitioners and not a genuine public interest litigation.”

The bench added that the whole Central Vista Project is an essential project of national importance, where the sovereign functions of Parliament are also to be conducted and public is vitally interested in this project. “It is obvious that petitioners have selectively chosen only one project which is of national importance, at a vital place where Republic Day celebrations are held in Delhi and is a part and parcel of the larger project, namely, Central Vista Project”, said the bench.

The ongoing construction work for the Central Vista Project has come under heavy criticism by the main Opposition Congress party in the backdrop of second wave of the Covid pandemic.

The High Court reiterated that work on the project is of national importance, and it has to be completed within time-bound schedule by November 2021. “Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project is equally important and essential as the Central Vista Project (the main project). If this type of project is stopped, the main project cannot be completed within the stipulated time”, said the bench in the verdict.

Citing provisions of the various Delhi Disaster Management Authority orders, the bench said the petitioners have not been able to substantiate the allegations made in the writ petition and/or the alleged breach or violation of the DDMA orders. “On the contrary, challenge to the on-going construction activity with regard to one particular Project, is a pointer to the ill-intent and lack of bonafides of the petitioners in filing the present petition”, added the bench.

The bench noted that construction activity is not prohibited under paragraph-8 of the order of the DDMA of April 19, issued under Section 22 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, contrary to the stand of the petitioners.

The Central Vista Project includes the Parliament, refurbishment of North Block, South Block, construction of new offices for central government, i.e., common Central Secretariat, central conference facilities etc. which includes Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project (i.e., both sides of Rajpath where Republic Day celebrations are held every year, on 26th January). “Thus, this project is a vital public project”, said the court.

The court pointed out that legality of the project has been upheld by the Supreme Court in a judgment delivered on January 5, this year.

The petitioners, Anya Malhotra and Sohail Hashmi, had sought a stay on the construction activities of Central Vista in the backdrop of COVID-19 situation in the capital and the threat posed by the construction activities as a potential super spreader.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed.)

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