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‘Questionable PILs have caused problems to our system’: SC trashes appeal against Central Vista project

A Bench comprising of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Aniruddha Bose lashed out at the petitioners for targeting a single public project when construction activities for similar projects are in progress everywhere else and all protocols have been complied with.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed an appeal filed against the May 31 judgment of the Delhi High Court refusing to halt the construction of the Central Vista redevelopment project amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Bench comprising of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Aniruddha Bose lashed out at the petitioners for targeting a single public project when construction activities for similar projects are in progress everywhere else.

Justice Maheshwari pointedly questioned Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra, appearing for the petitioners on why was this one project singled out. “Was honest research conducted about the kinds of construction work that were going on? Is that reflected in your petition?” he asked. 

Referring to annexures in the plea, Luthra responded, “We had challenged the permission obtained for Central Vista…We also placed on record the DDMA order which permitted the on-site construction. We placed on record the permission letter from CPWD…movement passes issued were also placed stating it should be allowed as it is an essential service. We stated that it is not an essential service.”

However, the Bench repeatedly made it clear that the project activities were proceeding in compliance with all protocols as observed in the High Court judgement.

“Your concern was the project is non-compliant. But when there is a finding that it is compliant then how is the petition being pursued?” said Justice Khanwilkar concluded.

Luthra then argued that his plea to halt construction was at a time when the pandemic was raging. The Bench then questioned his intention to file an appeal against the High Court order since Luthra claimed his concern was only limited to a certain period and that his concern was responded to by the government and the High Court.

“More particularly, it is during the pendency of the petition, it was placed on record that project was fully complied. This affidavit was not challenged. Despite that, the Petitioners pursued the petition for reasons best known to them,” read the order.

Shifting the goalpost, Luthra also questioned the fine levied against his clients and petitioners Anya Malhotra, a translator, and Sohail Hashmi, a ‘historian’ and documentary filmmaker.

Clarifying that the fine cannot be waived off considering the plea was highly motivated, the order concluded, “They cannot now challenge the findings of HC whose opinion is a possible view. The imposition of Rs. 1 lakhs by HC was on the basis that petition only with regard to one public project and was motivated. We dismiss the plea.”

The Court eventually went on to dismiss the appeal, stating that no interference with the Delhi High Court judgment was warranted.

“Questionable PILs have caused problems to our system. PIL has its own sanctity and is for all of us. But, this is not the way to pursue this,” remarked Justice Maheshwari before dismissing the plea. 

Delhi High Court order

The Delhi Court in May had dismissed the plea seeking suspension of Central Vista project work and imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on the petitioner for moving a motivated plea. 

Solicitor General Tushar Mehra, representing the Centre, said that the petition was a “facade” and a “disguise” to stall the project which was agreed by the Bench who declared the petition to be highly motivated.

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OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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