Image: PTI/Representative Image
In a big win for the Centre on Monday, the Supreme Court dismissed pleas challenging the Delhi High Court's judgment refusing to halt the construction of the Central Vista Project. Announced by the Centre on September 13, 2019, the Central Vista Project aims at redeveloping 86 acres of land in Delhi which has important structures including the Parliament, Rashtrapati Bhavan, India Gate, North Block and South Block. A bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Aniruddha Bose was hearing two separate pleas filed by advocate Pradeep Kumar Yadav and the original petitioners Anya Malhotra and Sohail Hashmi.
Appearing for Malhotra and Hashmi, Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra stressed that his clients are public-spirited individuals who sought the suspension of all construction activity during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. While he refuted the notion that they wanted to stop the project, the bench highlighted, "You are not asking for similar relief for all public projects". However, Luthra retorted, "Argument of complying for all other projects was raised by the State. If they’ve complied, why will we raise an issue? And if they’ve not complied, then I said that HC can take cognisance".
Pronouncing the verdict, the bench stated, "They cannot now challenge the findings of HC whose opinion is a possible view. The imposition of Rs.1 lakh by HC was on the basis that petition only with regard to one public project and was motivated. We dismiss the plea."
Supreme Court today refused to interfere with the Delhi High Court order challenging the petitions seeking a direction to stop construction around India Gate in the Central Vista Project. pic.twitter.com/UGJ3evBZ7C— ANI (@ANI) June 29, 2021
In the verdict dated May 31, the division bench of the Delhi HC comprising Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh held that the whole Central Vista Project is an essential project of "national importance". Highlighting that the redevelopment of the Central Vista Avenue has to be completed by November 2021 as per the court, it stated that the Delhi Disaster Management Authority order had not been flouted. Moreover, it imposed costs worth Rs.1 lakh on petitioners Anya Malhotra and Sohail Hashmi and dismissed the plea.
The Delhi HC ruled, "If this type of project is stopped by the Court, the main project cannot be completed within the stipulated time. Once the workers are staying at the site and all facilities have been provided by Respondent No.4, COVID-19 protocols are adhered to and COVID-19 appropriate behaviour is being followed, there is no reason for this Court while exercising powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India to stop the project. We are of the view that this is a motivated petition preferred by the petitioners and not a genuine public interest litigation."