New Delhi: The Supreme Court today dismissed a plea seeking direction to halt construction activity at the Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project amid the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic. The Court, however, gave liberty to petitioners to approach the Delhi High Court for urgent listing on the matter.Also Read - Amid Lockdown, Central Vista Project Construction Goes on Undeterred

The work on the project has continued despite the lockdown in the national capital that has brought most construction sites to a grinding halt. The construction work for the project has been brought under the ambit of “essential services”, a move that been flayed by the opposition

“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.

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.

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.

“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.

The project envisages 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.

(With agency inputs)