Indian Supreme Court passes buck in battle to stop work on Modi’s Central Vista project

A legal battle to stop work on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s $1.8bn Central Vista project in Delhi as Covid cases break global records took a twist today when the country’s Supreme Court urged petitioners to take their plea to the Delhi High Court on Monday, 10 May.

Its advice followed its refusal today to entertain a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by citizens seeking to bring forward a hearing on the matter scheduled for 17 May, which petitioners say is too long a wait amid the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Opposition to the lavish Central Vista project, which involves a new parliament building and an expansive residential complexes for the prime minister, has been growing.

Opponents say the project is a super spreader, and that resources being spent on it should go to saving lives as the virus rips through the country.

They question why the project has been given the status of essential work when so many are dying from lack of oxygen and other basic assistance.

"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," said senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, who is representing citizens Anya Malhotra and Sohail Hashmi in the petition, reports The Times of India. 

Leading opposition figure Rahul Gandhi, from the Congress party, today called Central Vista a "criminal wastage" and demanded that Modi "Put people’s lives at the centre – not your blind arrogance to get a new house!" 

The Supreme Court gave the green light to the project in January after an earlier legal challenge. (See further reading.)

Image: A rendering of the planned parliament by architecture firm HCP Designs

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