‘Andhra HC can’t be town planner’: SC stays order to develop capital in six months

A bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna stayed time-bound directions issued by the AP High Court on March 3, including the one that said the state will develop Amaravati's capital city within six months.
Buddha statue in Amaravati
Buddha statue in Amaravati
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The Supreme Court on Monday, November 28, sought responses from farmers and their associations, and the Union government, to a plea by the Andhra Pradesh government challenging the high court decision which said the state legislature "lacked competence" to make any law for shifting, bifurcating or trifurcating the capital. It observed that the Andhra Pradesh High Court cannot be a "town planner" or an "engineer" and direct the government that the capital city should come up in six months.

A bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna also stayed time-bound directions issued by the high court, including the one that said the state will construct and develop Amaravati's capital city and capital region within six months. The high court had also ordered the government and the authorities concerned to complete infrastructure development like roads, drainage and electricity and drinking water supply in the Amaravati Capital City and Region within one month.

The SC bench said it needs to examine the issue at length and posted a batch of petitions filed by the state, farmers, associations and their committees for further hearing on January 31. The top court, which asked the parties to file their responses by December, was informed by senior advocate KK Venugopal that the state government has repealed the law for having three different capitals of the State.

On March 3, the high court said the inaction of the state and Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA's) failure to develop the capital city and capital region as agreed to in terms of the Development Agreement-cum-Irrevocable General Power of Attorney, is nothing but a deviation from the promise made by the State, defeating legitimate expectation. It had said the state and the APCRDA violated the fundamental rights of the petitioners (farmers), as they surrendered their only source of livelihood-over 33,000 acres of fertile land.

The high court had passed its 300-page verdict on a batch of 63 writ petitions filed by aggrieved farmers of Amaravati region against the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government's decision to make Visakhapatnam the Executive Capital, Kurnool the Judiciary Capital and Amaravati as the Legislative Capital of Andhra Pradesh.

Following sustained opposition from farmers and landowners of Amaravati against the trifurcation of the capital of Andhra Pradesh, the YSRCP government repealed the controversial three-capital Bills in November 2021 but said that it would bring them back in a new form. After the March 3 high court verdict, Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy reiterated his government’s stand on having three capitals, and called the timeline prescribed for the development of Amaravati impractical. “Courts should not prescribe impossible timelines. Within one month, we’ve been asked to provide amenities like roads, drinking water, drainage, electricity at the cost of Rs 1 lakh crore. Within 6 months, we’ve been asked to spend Rs 5-6 lakh crore and build the capital. These are impossible timelines which no courts can dictate,” Jagan said. 

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