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High Court on Andhra Pradesh Government’s plan to develop 3 capitals

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    14th Mar, 2022

Context

Farmers in Andhra Pradesh' Amravati won a major battle with the Andhra Pradesh High court directing the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government to develop Amaravati city as the state's capital as promised to the farmers.

Background

What does the judgement state?

  • A three-judge division bench led by Chief Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra gave its verdict in response to 63 writ petitions filed on the matter.
  • The court directed the state government and the AP Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA) to develop Amaravati and handover reconstituted plots to the original landowners, as well as complete the pending works such as construction of roads, electricity connection, drainage, water supply, etc.
  • It also directed the state to submit a status report in six months.

The Indian Constitution

  • Article 2 and Article 3 of the Constitution of India confer exclusive and plenary powers upon Parliament to form or establish or completely alter and destroy the identity of the existing states.
  • A state legislature, as per Clause (e) of Article 3 of the Constitution, cannot even change the name of the state.
  • It is within the exclusive domain of Parliament to form any state, set boundaries, and name a state in the Union as defined in Article 1 of the Constitution.

 Why three capitals for Andhra Pradesh?

  • After the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh in 2014, Hyderabad went to Telangana while Andhra Pradesh was left with no capital city.
  • The state government, then led by N Chandrababu Naidu, decided to develop Amaravati as the new state capital. Accordingly, a project to develop Amaravati as a Greenfield administrative capital city of the state was launched in 2015.
  • However, Naidu's TDP lost the 2019 Assembly election in Andhra Pradesh, and YSRCP came to power.
  • After becoming the new Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Jagan Mohan Reddy proposed a plan to have three capitals — Visakhapatnam as the executive capital, Kurnool as the judiciary capital and limiting Amaravati as only the legislative capital.
  • The plan was a severe blow to farmers in Amaravati who had given over 35,000 acres for the development of the new capital city.
  • Angry with the government, they moved court.
  • This verdict was in response to a batch of 63 writ petitions filed in the Andhra Pradesh High Court. There are several other petitions, hearings for which, the court said, will continue.

What are the implications of this judgement?

  • AP HC verdict goes beyond upholding farmers rights The AP High Court verdict, however, goes beyond laying down basic instructions for the state government to resume development of Amaravati.
  • It makes several important points that not only reveal key motivations behind the Andhra Pradesh chief minister's three-capital plan, but also the general problem with development in India.
  • Pulling up the Jagan government, the High Court said that "change in government is not a ground to change the policy”. It then said that the "present government is under statutory legal obligation to complete the projects undertaken by the earlier government, unless they are contrary to any statutory or constitutional provisions".
  • The court also held that "the Notified Master Plan (for Amravati) cannot be modified suo-motu".
  • These remarks are crucial given how development works and policies change with change in government.
  • The verdict also recognises the impact that sudden changes in government policies have on citizens.
  • It held that the state government and the APCRDA violated the fundamental rights of the petitioners (farmers who parted with their land) when it (the state government) placed the development of the city and the region on hold.
  • The Court also held that the sudden stoppage of the developmental activities due to an alleged financial crisis or otherwise was impermissible and thereby, the State and APCRDA should be held responsible to the public under the Doctrine of Public Trust for the total amount spent on the development activities till date.

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