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Varanasi
Sunday, July 3, 2022

A tale of Andhra Pradesh’s capital city- Amaravati

AP State Reorganisation Act, 2014 was passed in the parliament and came into force on 2.6.2014. Sivaramakrishnan Committee was constituted by the Central Government to Study the options for a New Capital for State of Andhra Pradesh after Bifurcation, under Section 6 of the Reorganisation Act.

After considering the Sivaramakrishnan Committee Report and conducting various consultations and discussions with the stakeholders and the general public, a motion was moved in the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly on 04.09.2014 to locate the Capital City in the central part of the State and more particularly around Vijayawada-Guntur region and to go for decentralized development of the State with 3 Mega Cities and 14 smart cities and adopt a Land Pooling System (LPS) to be worked out by a Cabinet Sub-Committee. This motion was carried, and the Resolution was adopted without any significant opposition in the Legislative Assembly.

The capital city area was identified by the State of AP, between Vijayawada and Guntur along River Krishna comprising 24 revenue villages and part of Tadepalli Municipality of Guntur District covering an area of 53,748 Acres.

On 22.12.2014, the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA) Bill, 2014 was introduced for consideration in the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly. None of the Members of the Legislative Assembly raised any serious opposition to the proposed bill, thereby suggesting the existence of a broad consensus that existed in the Legislative Assembly of the State. Consequently the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority Act 2014, (APCRDA Act) was enacted and received the assent of the Governor in December, 2014.

As on date 34385.27 Acres of land has been pooled by 28,526 farmers in 24 revenue villages and in 22 revenue villages 64,709 returnable plots were allotted, out of which 39,769 plots were registered in the name of the persons who participated in the LPS Scheme under the APCRDA Act.

Consequent to the State assembly elections in 2019 the new party, viz., YSCRCP headed by Mr. Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy came to power in the State. The new government repealed the APCRDA Act and passed the Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Act, 2020 on 31.7.2020 to trifurcate the capital and decentralising the administration wherein the executive capital was proposed to be shifted to Vizag, judicial capital to Kurnool and retain Amaravati as legislative capital respectively.

Irked by the above move by the state government the aggrieved farmers represented by Rajadhani Rythu Parirakshnana Samithi and 62 others filed a petition in the High Court of AP, challenging the move by the state government. Midway, during the hearing in the High Court in 2021, the State repealed The Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Act that was originally passed in 2020 with a condition to reintroduce the bill in future after due consultations and restored the APCRDA Act, 2014.

The honourable High Court held that it is the obligation of the State to complete the development activities in the land pooled under the scheme, in view of the terms and conditions contained in the Development Agreement – cum – Irrevocable General Power of Attorney in Form-9.14 of the Land Pooling Rules that are framed based on the APCRDA Act, 2014. The Court categorically said that any deviation from the terms and conditions amounts to violation of the terms of the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority Act and Land Pooling Rules.

The Court held that the Development Agreement – cum – Irrevocable General Power of Attorney in Form-9.14 is a statutory contract or agreement and it would not fall under Articles 298 and 299 of the Constitution of India (These articles deal with the executive power of the Union and States to carry on trade and enter into contracts). The court further held that when APCRDA failed to develop the capital region, as agreed in Form 9.14 of Land Pooling Rules, the State is liable to develop the capital region and city, since APCRDA is state instrumentality and the State has total control over APCRDA.

The High Court said that the denial of development as per the Development Agreement – cum – Irrevocable General Power of Attorney in Form-9.14 to provide infrastructure to the land owners, who surrendered their land, under land pooling scheme, amounts to violation of the fundamental rights. The High Court also said that the petitioners also lost their livelihood of agriculture on account of surrender of lands. Thus, the State Government violated Articles 21 and 300-A of the Constitution of India (Article 21 deals with right to life and personal liberty of the citizens and Article 300-A deals with citizens rights to properties)  

The Government complex is planned in approximately 900 acres near Rayapudi Village in capital city to construct the buildings for Legislature, Secretariat, High Court, Raj Bhavan along with all Head of Departments, VIP housing etc. The tentative budget cost was approximately Rs.6000 crores for development of Government Complex. 

The construction of the above-mentioned infrastructure was to be completed by December, 2018.  The High Court made significant remarks stating that depriving the farmers of their right to approach any authority or Tribunal or Court to claim any loss or damages  for the State’s noncompliance with its obligations under the APCRDA Act and Land Pooling Scheme within the time schedule (i.e., development of infrastructure, laying of roads and return of fully developed and reconstituted plots to be completed by 2018) would amount to infringement of right of the petitioners guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution of India (Article 14 ensures equality before law to all citizens).

The State government submitted that the reason for the APCRDA ‘s failure to complete the projects undertaken by the earlier Government is lack of funds. Responding to this the Court remarked that bulletins or white papers issued by the APCRDA disclosed about the funding of projects and strategy to secure funds by APCRDA. The court observed that no reason is disclosed by APCRDA for deviating the strategy to secure the funds as disclosed in the white paper published by APCRDA. The Court declared that it is settled law that lack of funds is not a ground to refuse to undertake development works in the capital city.

 The High Court observed that the Act of the State abandoning the constructions after incurring Rs.15,000 crores and after grounding works of Rs.32,000 crores in the capital city, which are partly completed would cause economic distress to the State on account of spending public money and such loss cannot be compensated by anyone. Thus, the action of the State Government is against the principle of “good governance”.

The Court held that the State cannot shift its capital when the large parcels of land already pooled for sole purpose of construction of capital city. Apart from that the sale of land to any private individual for industrial purpose or mortgaging the land for the purpose of obtaining loan without developing the capital city in the land pooled is contrary to the land pooling scheme and such acts at the behest of farmers, who surrendered their lands voluntarily is infringement of their right as they were lured to surrender large parcels of land voluntarily, on the pretext of construction of capital city in the pooled land.

The Court declared that the State and the APCRDA are bound to implement the Amaravati project as notified by the APCRDA and cannot use the land pooled for any other purpose except the purposes specified in the Rules, 2015 and accordingly the Honourable Court issued writ of continuous Mandamus (i.e., enforcing the performance of public duties by public authorities).

The Court also said that the State Legislature lacks competence to make any legislation for shifting, bifurcating or trifurcating the capital and Heads of Departments of the three wings of the Government including the High Court to any area other than the Capital city notified under Section 3 of the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority Act, 2014 (i.e., Amaravati) and the land pooled under the Andhra Pradesh Capital City Land Pooling Scheme (Formation and Implementation) Rules, 2015.

The honourable High Court categorically stated that the present Government is under obligation to complete the projects undertaken by the previous Government, unless such projects were undertaken contrary to any statute.

As per Section 41 of the APCRDA Act, the Authority may, on a reference from the Local body concerned, make such modifications to the sanctioned perspective plan, master plan and infrastructure plan, or area development plan as it thinks fit and which in its opinion are necessary. However, there was a suo moto draft variation plan to the Master Plan notified vide Gazette notification No. 355, MAUD (APCRDA) Department, dated 10.03.2020.  As this modification to the Master Plan was done suo moto without a reference from the local bodies concerned, the High Court declared it as illegal, arbitrary and the same is set aside.

The Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Act that was originally passed in 2020 was based on G.N.Rao Committee and Boston Consulting Group Committee appointed by the current Andhra Pradesh State Government. Even though the State Government repealed this Act in November, 2011, the government also incorporated a clause to reintroduce the bill in future after due consultations. Therefore, as per the petitioners request the court has also granted the liberty to the petitioners to challenge the committees’ reports in any independent writ petition(s), whenever the petitioners find it necessary.

The petitioners argued that once the Parliament has acted under the provisions of the Articles 3 and 4 of the Constitution of India and has passed the AP Reorganisation Act, which provided for setting up of “a” single capital, the new Government of Andhra Pradesh cannot alter this position by changing the single capital into three capital cities. The court agreed with the petitioners’ arguments and also rejected the opinion of the Union of India (one of the respondents) that the location of the capital is State’s prerogative, saying that the earlier reorgnaisation acts were different and this particular AP Reorganisation Act explicitly provides for “a” single capital.

The State and APCRDA have been directed by the Honourable High Court to complete the process of development and infrastructure in the Amaravati Capital City and Region providing basic amenities like roads, drinking water, drainage, electricity in terms of Section 58 of APCRDA Act read with Rule 12(6) of Land Pooling Rules, 2015 within one month (i.e., by 3 rd April, 2022)

 The State and APCRDA are further directed by the Honourable High Court to deliver/handover the developed reconstituted plots in Amaravati capital region, on ground, to the land holders who surrendered their land as promised by the State, within three months (i.e., 3rd June, 2022).

The High Court also directed the State to construct and develop Amaravati capital city and capital region within six months’ time, as agreed in the terms and conditions of Development Agreement-cumIrrevocable General Power of Attorney in Form 9.14, provisions of APCRDA Act and Land Pooling Rules, 2015.

The Honourable Court in its verdict said that the Legislature has no legislative competence to pass any resolution/law for change of capital or bifurcating or trifurcating the capital city.

Breakup of the details of land surrendered for the land pooling done for the Amaravati Capital City as on May, 2017

Individual land holding (in Acres) No. of farmersLand AreaPercentage (%)
< 1 acre20,42210,03729.72 %
1 to 2.5  6,278  9,85729.18%
2.5to 5  2,131  7,46022.09%
5.01 to 10     765  4,40513.04%
10.01 to 15     109  1,036   3.07%
>15.01       49     973  2.88%
Total29,75433,771100%

The Honourable High Court observed that the State and APCRDA, which is the instrumentality of the State, gave a go-bye to the promise for development of capital city having lured more than 29,000 farmers to part with their livelihood i.e., agriculture with a strong hope that the State/APCRDA will return developed reconstituted plots (i.e., ¼ th of the total plots originally surrendered by them)  both residential and commercial for their future livelihood by executing agreement in form 9.14 prescribed in the land pooling scheme. The court rightly observed that the action of the State is contrary to the principle of constitutional morality.

Constitutional silence

The High Court also observed that the Constitution of India does not deal with the capital of the State except capital of India. Thus, the Constitution of India is silent with regard to the power of the Parliament or State to fix the capital on bifurcation/separation. Judiciary plays a crucial role in interpreting Silences in the constitution since it is the final interpreter of constitutional provisions. The High Court referred to several judgements of the Apex Court in this regard (Mangal Singh vs. Union of India) to conclude that the Parliament alone is competent to deal with setting up of legislature, executive and judicial organs of the State and it is implicit in the language employed in Article 4 of the Constitution of India i.e., “supplemental, incidental or consequential provisions.

This is a landmark judgement that categorically says that (i) the present Government is under obligation to complete the projects undertaken by the previous Government, unless such projects were undertaken contrary to any statute. And (ii) lack of funds is not a ground to refuse to undertake development works in the capital city.

Close to 97 percent of the farmers who surrendered their lands to the State Government for the development of the capital city were marginal and small farmers (with less than 5 acres of lands). The honourable High Court took cognizance of this fact and invoked Articles 14 and 21 in its judgement to rescue these underprivileged lot. 

The Amaravati Capital City farmers who surrendered their lands to the Government under the Land Pooling Scheme are on protests for more than a year demanding justice. The High Court judgement will rightly give the agitating farmers greater confidence that their legitimate rights will be protected.

However, the whims and fancies of the political parties, who keep changing their stand on issues depending on whether they are in power or in opposition, is highly unpredictable and therefore it is premature to conclude that AP State’s capital issue is fully resolved since the State Government in all probability is likely to knock the doors of the Apex Court in the near future.

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Dr. B.N.V. Parthasarathi
Dr. B.N.V. Parthasarathi
Ex- Senior Banker, Financial and Management Consultant and Visiting faculty at premier B Schools and Universities. Areas of Specialization & Teaching interests - Banking, Finance, Entrepreneurship, Economics, Global Business & Behavioural Sciences. Qualification- M.Com., M.B.A., A.I.I.B.F., PhD. Experience- 25 years of banking and 16 years of teaching, research and consulting. 200 plus national and international publications on various topics like- banking, global trade, economy, public finance, public policy and spirituality. One book in English “In Search of Eternal Truth”, two books in Telugu and 38 short stories 50 articles and 2 novels published in Telugu. Email id: [email protected]

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