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SC: Petitioners can press Delhi HC for early hearing on work at Central Vista site

Krishnadas Rajagopal New Delhi | Updated on May 07, 2021

The construction work for the Central Vista Redevelopment Project, at Rajpath in New Delhi on Thursday   -  PTI

Appellants worried as workers are being transported to site despite pandemic

The Supreme Court on Friday highlighted the “extremely urgent” concern raised by two Delhi residents about workers being ferried to-and-fro for Central Vista redevelopment amid the ongoing pandemic, and permitted them to approach the Delhi High Court Chief Justice with a request to hear their case “as early as possible”.

“We hope and trust that upon such request being made, the High Court would consider the same appropriately and pass necessary orders,” a Bench of Justices Vineet Saran and Dinesh Maheshwari recorded in its order.

The Court suggested the mention for an urgent hearing before the Delhi High Court Chief Justice on Monday could even be made jointly by the petitioners’ lawyer, senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Centre.

The petitioners, Anya Malhotra and Sohail Hashmi, had moved the Supreme Court after the Delhi High Court adjourned the hearing of their case to May 17 to “study” a judgment of the Supreme Court pronounced in January 5, allowing the Central Vista project. The Supreme Court said since the case was already pending before the High Court, it did not want to enter into its merits. However, the Bench said the case could be heard by the High Court “as early as possible”.

Luthra said the workers were being ferried by bus from Karol Bagh, Keerthi Nagar and Sarai Kale Khan and the work seems to be continuing owing to a stringent deadline.

‘Essential activity?’

“But how can construction be an essential activity when there is a public health crisis on? We are in a position that the case load may peak by mid-May, and the HC keeps the case on May 17 to study a judgment? Please understand, this is a peculiar situation... HC adjourns to May 17 without notice... We are facing a humanitarian crisis,” Luthra submitted.

Luthra said “when human lives are concerned, government needs to protect”.

From April 1 to May 3, the positivity rate had “shot up” from 3.57 per cent to about 30 per cent, Luthra argued. “Today when the health system is broken... People are not getting beds...” he said.

“We are conscious of it. A Different Bench is seized of this issue... Luthra, you can make comments about deaths, but we cannot, it may be taken otherwise...” Justice Saran said.

Luthra referred to a Disaster Management Authority circular which had directed construction activities, except where labourers are residing on-site, to be stopped. He said the petitioners were only concerned with the work on the Rajpath, Central Vista and garden stretches and no other. “The nation is considering a lockdown, IPL has been shut off. Despite the Centre’S great efforts to supply oxygen, there is an unprecedented spread of infection. On May 17, we would have reached the peak...”Luthra argued.

‘Bad precedent’

Mehta objected to the special leave petition filed against an order of adjournment by the High Court. “It sets a bad precedent... Our courts are functioning under great constraints... There are severally factually incorrect statements being made,” Mehta submitted.

 

 

 

Published on May 07, 2021

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