The petition against the Central Vista is “sheer abuse of the process of law” and yet another attempt to block the project, the Centre has told the Delhi High Court, requesting that the petition be scrapped with a fine.
The government also denies allegations in the petition that work on the project has continued even though workers don’t live on site – a condition for construction activities during the lockdown in Delhi.
The petition by Anya Malhotra and Sohail Hashmi requests that the Central Vista project be paused as hundreds of workers are being exposed to Covid.
The Centre says the project in the petition is not what is referred to as “the Central Vista project” (which includes Parliament, refurbishment of the North Block, South Block, construction of new offices for central government) but is “limited to the redevelopment of Central Vista Avenue or Rajpath”, where the Republic Day parade is held. It says the project at Rajpath involves building public amenities like toilet blocks, paths, parking spaces, four pedestrian underpasses and the “improvement of canals, bridges, lawns, lights etc”. The work is to be completed by November, according to the government.
“This is very important public space and most widely visited by common public and tourists in Delhi,” the Centre says.
On allegations that the workers are not staying on site, the government says about 400 workers were hired well before the April 19 curfew. And while their stay on the site was being arranged, permission was sought for transporting materials and labour from another part of the city to the work site. The permission was granted on April 19 (the day curfew was imposed) and was valid till April 30, the government says.
A Covid compliant facility has been installed at worksite to accommodate 250 workers who wanted to stay there and a medical facility has also been set up for testing and isolation, the Centre’s affidavit claims, submitting photos as evidence.
The petition has “resorted to falsehood and suppression of material facts as all on site arrangements were in the public domain”, the Centre says, accusing the petitioner of not physically verifying facts.
“The fact that out of all these construction activities going on simultaneously for different projects by different agencies, the petitioner has chosen to be a ‘public spirited citizen’ only with regard to one project only speaks volumes about his intentions and motive behind filing the present petition that too suppressing all these facts,” the Centre says.
That that petitioner “rushed” to file a petition before the High Court when the project has been on for some time, and then approached the Supreme Court when the hearing was adjourned for a week raised questions on whether it was a “bona fide litigant”, the Centre said.