SC refuses to entertain plea for hearing on PIL for halting construction in Central Vista project

New Delhi, May 07 (PTI): The Supreme Court on Friday refused to entertain a plea against deferment of hearing on a PIL seeking direction to halt construction activity at the Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project during the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic but gave liberty to petitioners to approach the Delhi High Court for urgent listing of the matter.
The apex court was hearing the appeal against the May 4 order of the high court which had listed the PIL for hearing on May 17 saying it wants to first go through what the Supreme Court has deliberated in its judgement of January 5, giving a go ahead to the ambitious project. The apex court today asked senior advocate Siddharth Luthra to mention the matter before the High Court for urgent listing on May 10.
We are of the opinion that since the matter is pending before the High Court and the order challenged in the special leave petition is only of adjournment, we are not inclined to go into the merit of the case, a bench of Justices Vineet Saran and Dinesh Maheshari said.
It said that in given circumstances, we request Mr. Luthra to file the petition himself or through any other counsel, to make a request before Delhi High Court on Monday (May 10) to take up the matter as early as possible .
It noted the submission of the senior advocate that the matter involves extreme urgency and said that the High Court may consider the prayer and pass orders.
At the outset, Luthra told the bench that the matter is of extreme importance as the country is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.
He said they are only concerned with the challenge to the permission granted for continuation of construction which is going on at Rajpath, Central Vista stretch and gardens.
Labours are being transported from Sarai Kale Khan and Karol Bagh area to Raj Path and Central Vista, where construction work is going on. This enhances chances of spread of COVID infection among them, Luthra said.
He referred to the letter written by Central Public Works Department (CPWD) to the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) for continuation of construction work in Central Vista project on the ground that it is time bound work.
The permission was granted on the ground that it was essential activity. How is construction work an essential activity? In a health emergency, we cannot risk the lives of workers and their families and put more pressure on health care system, Luthra said adding that peak of second wave of COVID-19 is being anticipated by May 15 and High Court has listed the matter for May 17, which would not serve any purpose.
He said that when the nation is considering lockdown and even Indian Premier League is being shut, the construction activity cannot be allowed.
Justice Saran said, When we are sitting in closed rooms with face masks, itself shows the situation is grim. We would not like to make any further comments on the COVID situation as other benches are seized of the matter, otherwise our remarks may be misinterpreted .
The top court disposed of the plea.

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