A division bench of the Telangana High Court has sought an explanation from the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government on why there is a need for a new assembly in the state. This comes two days after Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao held a bhoomi pooja at the 17-acre Errum Manzil for the new Legislative Assembly and Council buildings.
The division bench of the High Court was hearing petitions filed separately by DR Lubna Sarwath, a social activist and J Shankar, a PhD student from Osmania Unversity. Their petitions sought direction from the court to stay the demolition of the 150-year-old Errum Mazil which the petitions say should be notified as a heritage structure.
Though the court refused to stay the demolition, it sought an explanation from the state government to justify the demolition decision and the need for a new Assembly. The court has directed the state to file a counter affidavit with architectural and technical plans for the proposed buildings.
"The petitioners contended that there is enough space in the existing assembly and Council buildings, but the Telangana government is going ahead with its proposed project and it will be a sheer waste of public money. The government should inform the court about the need to build new buildings at Errum Manzil," observed the bench comprising Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Shameem Akther, reported TNIE.
KCR decided to raze parts of the old Secretariat building situated near the Hussain Sagar lake and construct a 'vaasthu- compliant' new building at the same spot, which had invited criticism. The new Assembly and Council would be constructed at an estimated total cost of Rs 500 crore â€” Rs 400 crore for the Secretariat and Rs 100 crore for the Assembly.
Senior counsel S Sathyam Reddy, representing the PhD student, told the court that the existing assembly had once accommodated 294 legislators and 90 legislative council members in the erstwhile united Andhra Pradesh.The court was told that there was no need for a new Assembly when the count of legislators has come down to 119 and the Legislative Council members have come down to 42.
The petitioners have sought the Chief Justice to visit Errum Manzil or appoint an expert committee to study the conditions of the existing heritage structure. During the demolition drive for a new assembly, the TRS government will also be demolishing the Jala Soudha, built barely 10 years ago. The building with over 100 rooms is presently being used as offices for the Roads and Buildings (R&B) Division and the Irrigation Department.
Rachna Reddy, the senior counsel appearing for Lubna Sarwath, argued that the Heritage Conservation Committee had already identified one of the buildings in the Errum Manzil as a heritage structure. The counsel also argued that the state government's action would push the state exchequer into a debt of Rs1.8 lakh crore.
In response to the petitioners, the State Additional Advocate General J Ramachandra Rao challenged the courtâ€™s role in policy matters of the state. Rao contended that the Errum Manzil structure itself was not in the heritage list. â€śLocations of the district and Mandal headquarters, constructing Secretariats etc. are in the domain of state policy and hence should not be interfered with. Individuals may hold varying opinions and their figment of imaginations cannot dictate terms to the state which takes a decision after wider consultations with experts,â€ť he said, reported ToI.
After hearing both sides, the Telangana High Court directed the State to file a counter affidavit before the next hearing of the case on July 8.