NEW DELHI: A PIL in the Delhi High Court on Tuesday sought direction for the Centre to halt construction activity at the Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project during the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
The PIL was opposed by the Centre before a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Jasmeet Singh, which after hearing brief arguments, said it wants to first go through what the Supreme Court has deliberated in its judgement permitting the project.
With this observation, the court adjourned the matter and posted the next hearing on May 17.
Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, who along with central government standing counsel Anurag Ahluwalia appeared for the Housing Ministry and Central Public Works Department, told the bench that a reply can be filed by the next date of hearing.
Petitioners Anya Malhotra, who works as a translator, and Sohail Hashmi, a historian and documentary filmmaker, have claimed that the project has the potential to be a super spreader if allowed to continue during the pandemic.
Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for the petitioners, said the continuation of the project was a matter of concern in view of the "crumbling" healthcare system and the lives at stake of the workers employed at the construction site.
The project entails construction activity on Rajpath and the surrounding lawns from India Gate to Rashtrapati Bhawan, the plea, filed through advocates Gautam Khazanchi and Pradyuman Kaistha, has said.
The project envisages constructing a new Parliament House, a new residential complex that will house the Prime Minister and the Vice-President, as well as several new office buildings and a Central Secretariat to accommodate Ministry offices.
The petitioners have said, in their plea, that they are aware of the apex court decision permitting the project and are not trying to overreach it.
They are only concerned that the continuing construction activity poses a threat to the lives of the citizens of Delhi and also the workers engaged in the project, the petition has said and added that the work going on there was in violation and breach of the orders of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority.
"It is the respectful submission of the petitioners that at a time when the city of Delhi is grappling with a devastating corona virus outbreak, all efforts, particularly and more so by the state and its agencies, have to be towards controlling the spiraling situation.
"The petitioners are also questioning why or how the project constitutes an 'essential service', merely because some executive mandated contractual deadline has to be met," the plea has said.