The Delhi High Court has reserved its judgement on a plea to halt the construction of Central Vista project in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. The project envisages construction of a new building for Parliament, new house for Prime Minister & Vice President and new buildings for ministries and government departments. A Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh heard both sides’ arguments. Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra appeared for the petitioners while Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared for the Centre and Senior Advocate Maninder Singh represented the Shapoorji Pallonji Group.
Luthra submitted in the court that the issue is how the construction activities came to be classified as essential services when a lockdown is in force in Delhi due to COVID-19 pandemic. He said amid the curfew, a letter was written seeking permission to allow Shapoorji Pallonji to carry out construction activities in view of the stringent timeline of work and it was granted.
He also disputed the Centre’s claim submitted before the court on previous hearings where the latter claimed that the worksite has all COVID-19 facilities and COVID-19 protocols are maintained at the site. “The Union of India has resorted to falsehoods, suppression of material facts…There is no bed, there is no bedding. My lords will see, empty tents on April 24. And they expect your lordships to believe this?” reported Bar & Bench quoting Luthra.
Appearing for the Centre, SG Mehta reiterated that the PIL is yet another attempt to stop the construction work. He said that public interest is very selective in this PIL as they don’t care about other workmen 2 or 3 km away. He was referring to other construction workers being carried out by the other government bodies.
He again said that there was a medical facility at the site and the workers will have access to it.
Contrary to the claims made by the petitioner, the Centre claimed that the workers are living at the site and not transported to and fro daily. The Centre has also claimed that the current construction work includes building public amenities like new toilet blocks, parking spaces, pedestrian underpasses etc.