The Delhi High Court on Monday reserved its ruling on a PIL to stop the Central Vista construction, considering the current Covid sitaution and stressing this is not an “essential service” as declared by the Centre.
The plea was heard by a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh even as Solicitor General Tushar Mehta pleaded to throw out the petition since the Supreme Court as well as this court considered numerous challenges to the project and approved it. Moreover, he said this construction has been going on since long.
“This is a facade of PIL to disguise something they always wanted to stop under one pretext or the other. Any bonafide litigant who had health interest of workers in mind would have withdrawn this plea since the workers have the medical facility at the site,” the S-G said, pointing out that the petitioners had no objection to certain other projects 2-3 km away. Should they also not care about other workers who are employed in other projects?
Senior advocate Maninder Singh, on behalf of the builders Shapporji Pallonji, who have bagged the contract for the construction, asserted the petitioners are trying to override the SC judgment. He said the plea must have been withdrawn on learning the workers are staying at the site and not being travelling. Also, the petitioners are not to decide when the work will complete. “We can’t delay construction if we want to celebrate Republic Day parade,” he added.
Advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for petitioners, asserted right to health is a fundamental right, dismissing the govt’s claim the workers safely stay at the sites.
with full protection.
“Please see…There is no bed, there is no bedding, there is nobody. You will see empty tents on April 24. And they expect your lordships to believe them.”
He tore apart the government’s defence from its submissions that about 400 workers were engaged initially and accommodation was provided to those willing to stay back and transportation for others. The government’s latest affidavit, however, says “as of now there are abou 280 workers on the site.”
“As per your admission, from May 1 everything is in order. What happened when you had no permission. How many died in April? How many fell sick? How many were tested? What has been the impact on residents of the locality,” Luthra asked.
Referring to the claim that the work started only on May 1 and that all workers were insured, he said the insurance period was from May 5, 2021 to May 4, 2022 which means no insurance till May 5, 2021. Don’t tell us that we have not done our homework, Luthra said.