Odisha had sought contempt action against senior officials of Andhra for notifying panchayat polls in three 'disputed area' villages.

Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik and Andhra CM Jagan
news Court Friday, February 19, 2021 - 16:32

The Andhra Pradesh government has told the Supreme Court that there was no breach of its direction, and that it has been duly administrating its own territories and did not infringe upon the neighbouring Odisha's area. Odisha has sought contempt action against senior officials of Andhra Pradesh for notifying panchayat polls in three 'disputed area' villages of the petitioner state.

Andhra Pradesh government told the apex court that the petition filed by Odisha is grossly misconceived and is not maintainable at all in view of the fact that no contempt, whatsoever, has been committed by it.

The Supreme Court granted four weeks to Odisha to reply to Andhra Pradesh government's affidavit on its contempt plea against senior officials of AP for notifying panchayat polls in the 'disputed areas'.

Seeking dismissal of the contempt plea filed by Odisha, Andhra government told the top court that Odisha is seeking to achieve indirectly what it failed to achieve directly as the apex court in its 2006 judgement dismissed the suit filed by Odisha on the ground that it was not maintainable under Article 131 of the Constitution.

"Without prejudice to the above, it is most respectfully submitted that assuming that there was any undertaking given to the Court by the parties, it is settled law that an action for contempt can only be taken in respect of a breach of undertaking if the Court has passed an order on the basis of such an undertaking. There was no such undertaking in the present matter," the state government said in its affidavit.

"It is most submitted that the State of Andhra Pradesh has not taken any step in violation of any agreement/ direction. The State of Andhra Pradesh has been duly administrating its own territories and has not infringed upon the territory of the petitioner," it said.

Andhra Pradesh told the apex court that it has been consistently holding elections in Ganjaybadra, Pattuchennuru and Paguluchennuru villages, and that they fall in No.1 Araku Lok Sabha Parliamentary Constituency and in No.13 Saluru Assembly Constituency.

"The SC categorically noted, after the dismissal of the Suit, that it was merely recording the fact that parties had entered into a mutual agreement. Therefore, by no stretch of imagination, can it be stated that there was a breach of undertaking or that of any order/direction passed by this Hon'ble Court. The contempt petition is therefore liable to be dismissed on this ground alone," it said.

The state government told the apex court that elections have consistently been held to Lok Sabha and the State Assembly in the aforesaid villages since the year 1952 and so far as the local body elections are concerned, it has conducted local body elections in these three villages since inception of Panchayat Raj Act.

"The Answering Respondent herein submits that even in the years of 2006 and 2013, elections were held to the Panchayats concerned and the following persons came to be elected as Sarpanches. In view of the above, it is clear that the villages fall within the State of Andhra Pradesh.

"There is, therefore, absolutely no contempt that is made out. The Petitioner has failed to even refer to any document that entitles," it said.

The top court on February 9 had asked Andhra Pradesh to file its response on a plea filed by Odisha seeking contempt action against senior officials of the southern state, for notifying panchayat polls in three 'disputed area' villages of the petitioner state.

More than five decades since the first status quo order on the territorial jurisdiction dispute with AP over 21 villages, Odisha has moved the top court once again seeking contempt action against officials of the southern state for notifying panchayat polls in three of its villages.

The Naveen Patnaik government has said the notification amounts to invading Odisha's territory.

The dispute over territorial jurisdiction over 21 villages popularly called as Kotia Group of villages first reached the top court in 1968 when Odisha on the basis of three notifications -- issued on December 1, 1920, October 8, 1923 and October 15, 1927 -- claimed that Andhra Pradesh had trespassed into its well-defined territory.

During the pendency of the suit filed by Odisha, the top court had on December 2, 1968 directed both the states to maintain status quo till the disposal of the suit and said, there shall be no further ingress or egress on the territories in dispute, on the part of either party .

The suit filed by Odisha under Article 131 (the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction over any dispute arising between the states or between the centre and state) of the Constitution was finally dismissed on technical grounds by the top court on March 30, 2006, and with the consent of both the states it directed that status quo be maintained till the dispute is resolved.

Now, the Odisha government has sought contempt action against AP's three senior officials -- Mude Hari Jawaharlal (contemnor-1), collector of Vizianagaram district, Adityanath Das, Chief Secretary of AP (contemnor-2), and Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar, State Election Commissioner of Andhra Pradesh (contemnor-3).

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