Written by Aryan Singh
The petition was first filed before the Delhi High Court on Tuesday by Anya Malhotra and Sohail Hashmi, represented by Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra. The matter was adjourned till May 17. The petition questions the decision of the authorities to issue movement passes under the ‘essential service category to vehicles engaged with the project to operate during curfew in view of ‘exigencies of government work’.
It further states that the construction of the project cannot be equated to an essential activity as there is no exigency whatsoever and there is no reason why the same cannot be suspended at a time when Delhi is facing an unprecedented health crisis. It went on to state that there is no rational basis to differentiate between workers engaged in the construction of the project and workers engaged in any other construction work.
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Furthermore, the petition sought to challenge Union of India and Central Public Work’s Department’s “relentless, unmindful and reckless act” which is not only in violation of the orders passed by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority but also poses a threat to the lives of people in Delhi and workers engaged in the Project. The Petition also seeks direction of the Court to ensure that the workers are paid full wages notwithstanding the suspension of the Project. It was clarified during the course of hearing that the petitioners are not challenging the project itself but were only seeking a halt on the movement of workers in view of the ongoing pandemic.
A plea for suspension of all kinds of construction activity in relation to the Central Vista Redevelopment Project in compliance of the orders issued by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority in wake of the covid 19 surge in the national capital was mentioned before the Supreme Court on Wednesday. It may be noted that the petition, by Anya Malhotra and Sohail Hashmi, was filed before the Delhi High Court yesterday.
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During the course of hearing before the division bench comprising Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh, while the bench showed its non inclination of issuing notice in the plea, the Bench listed the matter for further hearing on May 17 Before the bench headed by CJI N. V. Ramana, Mr. Luthra on Thursday submitted, “We are not challenging the project. That is settled by Your Lordships’ judgment.
We only pray that the back and forth shifting in buses of 150 labourers from Sarai Kale Khan to the construction site stop during the peak of the pandemic. It will wreak havoc on our crumbling health system” “If you want to shift somebody, what is the problem? Shift!”, said the bench.. “These are difficult times. Judges are not available. We have no manpower. I also had an infection…I am not able to read the papers… This is an extraordinary situation. I can’t force all judges to hear matters”, said the CJI.
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The petition highlights that the construction of the aforesaid project has a “super spreading potential and threat” to the workers who are being exposed to the infection on a daily basis while working and that too without payment. Calling it “relentless”, unmindful and reckless act” of the Union of India and Central Public Works Department, the plea states that such an act of carrying on the Project posing threat to the lives of the citizens of Delhi 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.”