Central Vista: Plea in Delhi HC seeks halt of construction work as a potential COVID super spreader

CPWD has informed a expert panel that construction of PM’s residence under Central Vista project will be completed by December 2022, a development criticised by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi

Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)

NH Web Desk

A plea has been filed before the Delhi High Court to halt the construction of the Central Vista redevelopment project in view of the COVID-19 situation in the country and the threat posed by the construction work as a potential super spreader.

The petition questioned the decision of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, New Delhi to issue movement passes in the ‘essential services’ category to vehicles engaged in the development and redevelopment of Central Vista Avenue, allowing them to operate during curfew and lockdown in view of ‘exigencies of government work’.

"Petitioners are questioning why or how the project constitutes an 'essential service', merely because some executive mandated contractual deadline has to be met. Further, it is the petitioners’ respectful submission that in the current dismal scenario, this project has no feature of “essentiality” for and/or of “service” to the public at large," the plea said, as per a Bar & Bench report.

The petition also claimed that the "relentless, unmindful and reckless act" of carrying on the project poses a threat to the lives of the citizens of Delhi and beyond, including the lives of the work force/labour engaged in the project.

The construction work has the potential of being a super spreader, and is in clear breach and violation of the orders passed by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority, the petitioners submitted.

The matter came up for hearing on Wednesday before a Bench headed by Chief Justice DN Patel, who said that the Bench wants to study the judgment delivered by the Supreme Court in this regard before it hears the matter.

"We are not issuing notice," the High Court clarified. The matter was thus posted for hearing on May 17.

Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma said that he would file a response.

The Centre's redevelopment project envisages the Central Vista area of Lutyens Delhi by 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.

A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court had, on January 5, given its green signal to the project by a 2:1 majority, rejecting a batch of petitions challenging the scheme for alleged violation of land use and environmental norms. Justice Sanjiv Khanna had dissented from the majority opinion on the point of change of land use associated with the project.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi on Tuesday slammed the Centre over its Central Vista project. She said that at a time when people are grappling with the shortage of oxygen and vaccines in the country, it would be better if the government deploys all resources in saving lives instead of building a new house for the prime minister.

Her attack on the government came over reports that the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) has informed a government-appointed expert panel that the construction of the prime minister's residence under the ambitious Central Vista project will be completed by December 2022.

"At a time when the people of the country are struggling with shortage of oxygen, vaccines, hospital beds, medicines, it would be better if the government deploys all resources in saving the lives of the people, instead of building a new house for the PM at Rs 13,000 crore," Priyanka Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.

"Such expenses send a message to the public that the priorities of the government are in some other direction," the Congress general secretary said.

The Ministry of Environment has already granted the clearance for the expansion and renovation of the existing Parliament building, which is part of the Rs-13,450 crore Central Vista Redevelopment Project.

At a meeting held last month, the EAC recommended for the environmental clearance for the redevelopment of the Common Central Secretariat buildings and the prime minister's residence.

"The EAC, based on the information submitted and clarifications provided by the project proponent and detailed discussions held on all the issues, recommended granting environmental clearance to the project," the minutes of the meeting said.

The panel took note of the CPWD's submission that the Common Central Secretariat will consolidate all ministries and improve the productivity and the efficiency of the administration. According to the CPWD, the Common Central Secretariat buildings will be constructed by May 2023.

(With inputs by PTI)

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