The Delhi High Court on Monday described the Central Vista project as "vital and essential" and dismissed a plea that sought direction to suspend all construction activity of the project.
The high court while refusing to stay construction said that as the labourers are staying on-site, "no question of suspending the construction work arises".
The court said the legality of the project was already upheld by the Supreme Court and even the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) allowed it to continue. "The concerned DDMA order in question nowhere prohibits construction work," it added.
The continuation of the project was challenged by Anya Malhotra, a translator, and Sohail Hashmi, a historian and documentary filmmaker, because of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Both Malhotra and Hashmi contended in their PIL that the project was not an essential activity and can be put on hold for time being.
The court further allowed Central Vista construction work to continue and imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on the petitioners for their "motivated" plea. A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh dismissed the plea saying the petition was "motivated" and "not a genuine PIL".
The court said under the contract awarded to the Shapoorji Pallonji Group, work had to be completed by November this year and, therefore, it should continue.
Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs and Civil Aviation, while addressing a presser following the HC verdict, said that a false narrative is being propagated about the Central Vista project. "None of the historic and cultural buildings will be touched," he added.
Puri also said that labourers at the construction site have been vaccinated. "It is our responsibility to vaccinate people working on the construction site. And we are ensuring that. Out of 1,300 workers on the site, 900 are vaccinated. We are following 100 per cent protocol at the site," said Puri.
"Currently, two new projects are underway - the new parliament building and Central Vista avenue. A decision on these projects was taken before the pandemic. The total cost of the project is around Rs 1,300 crore," he said.
The project entails construction activities on Rajpath and the surrounding areas from the India Gate to the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
The project envisions a new Parliament House, a new residential complex to house offices and the prime minister and the vice president. It will also have new office buildings and a Central Secretariat to accommodate various ministries 'offices.
(With input from agencies)
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