10 Aug 2023 6:53 AM GMT
The Andhra Pradesh High Court has stayed the further construction of houses for the economically weaker sections in R-5 Zone of the capital city of Amaravati."If the construction is completed it will be a fait accompli. The loss will be irreparable; Balance of convenience is in favour of maintaining the status quo with respect to the houses also till the final judicial orders are passed. ...
The Andhra Pradesh High Court has stayed the further construction of houses for the economically weaker sections in R-5 Zone of the capital city of Amaravati.
"If the construction is completed it will be a fait accompli. The loss will be irreparable; Balance of convenience is in favour of maintaining the status quo with respect to the houses also till the final judicial orders are passed. The rights of the land losers / farmers; the implications of the Amaravati judgment on the farmers / the Capital City / the development; the right of the State to alter the plans / schemes etc., are all inextricably linked up," said the court.
The Full Bench of Justice D.V.S.S Somayajulu, Justice Cheetaki Manavendranath Roy and Justice Ravi Nath Tilhari passed the interim order on the interlocutory applications filed in petitions challenging the G.O. No. 45 of 2023 issued in March by way of which the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) was ordered to hand over 1134 acres to the District Collectors of Guntur and NTR for the purpose of providing house sites to the beneficiaries of Economically Weaker Sections of the Society.
Unnam Muralidhar Rao, the senior counsel on behalf of one of the petitioners, contended that the land for the construction of the capital was taken by entering into a statutory agreement under the Land Pooling Scheme (LPS) with the farmers and that the farmers had surrendered their land on receiving the promise of being allotted new plots in the developed city of Amaravati.
Senior counsel Rao contended that the statutory contract could not be amended unilaterally. He asserted that the land surrendered by the farmers could only be used for their benefit and outsiders "inducted into the lands."
Relying on the Amaravati judgement [Rajadhani Rythu Parirakshnana Samithi v. State of A.P], the senior counsel Rao emphasised that the farmers are partners in the development and the state is bound to fulfil their contractual obligations.
Senior Counsel Dammalapati Srinivas, arguing on behalf of the petitioner in a PIL, contended that vesting of the land in the CRDA itself has not been completed. It was submitted that out of the Rs 354 Crores that was decided as the consideration for the land, not even 50% has been paid. It was also submitted that for an allotment to be complete, the sale consideration needed to be paid in full and hence, the CRDA had no authority to initiate transfer of land.
He brought to the notice of the court that in a similar batch of Writs that were challenging the validity of G.O. No 45 of 23, an interim order was passed by a division bench of the High Court which was challenged in the Supreme Court and that both the courts had held that the implementation of the G.O and consecutive allotment of houses will be subject to the outcome of the writs. The counsel contended that if the State was permitted to go on with the construction, and the Writs were decided against them, the State would end up wasting substantial amount of funds and taxpayers’ money.
Additional Advocate General Ponna Sudhakar Reddy, appearing on behalf of the State, submitted that the actions of the State are within the purview of the Amravati judgement as approved by the Supreme Court. He said that the Supreme Court had directed the State along with the CRDA to discharge the duties that are stipulated under schedule II and III of the Land Pooling Rules, 2015.
It was contended by the State that the Supreme Court had directed it and the CRDA not to alienate/ mortgage or create third party interest except for the construction of the State capital. He relied on section 53(1)(d) of the APCRDA Act, to argue that 5% of the captial region is to be allotted for affordable housing of the poor, and that since the initial map did not provide for such allotment, it was modified under section 87 of the Act to incorporate the same.
"Even the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in SLP No.9954 – 9955 of 2023 clearly modified the order of the Division Bench by directing the State to include a condition that the patta, if any, issued will be subject to the orders of the Court in the writ petitions... Once the house sites patas are issued it is for the purpose of construction of the houses and as the same is in the knowledge of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and the Division Bench, this Court cannot pass any further orders in these applications restraining the construction," the State counsel said.
After hearing the submissions, the court said that a joint reading of Schedule II and III of the LPS Rules would prima facie indicate that the construction of houses of economically weaker section would be only in relation to the people who are residents and would not apply to people from outside.
"In the prima facie opinion of this Court this responsibility of the Government would be towards “others residing within the area under the LPS”. In addition housing to those “losing houses” in the course of development is also permissible. Whether this would permit the State to allot the lands to people from outside the district and outside the LPS as is being done now is a debatable issue. In the prima facie opinion of the Court these schedules and clauses will apply to those “others” residing in the area covered by LPS and to landowners under the LPS," the bench said.
The court, referring to clause 7.2.1 of The Amaravati Land Allotment Regulations 2017, said that till the payment is not paid, it cannot be concluded that the land is transferred to the CRDA. "The use of word “whereupon” clearly indicates the intention that payment and execution of the agreement are preconditions for erections of structures."
The Full Bench held that although Supreme Court had stated that issuance of patta would be subject to the findings of the court, this observation of the Supreme Court was only in relation to allotment of plots for the EWS and not for construction of housing.
The court also noted that the Centre and the State government were sharing the expenditure for the construction of housing for EWS. However in view of pending litigation, the Central government is proposing to renege, and the entire cost of acquiring and construction may be borne solely by the State, it noted further.
"This Court cannot be a silent spectator if taxpayers’ money is likely to be caught up in the litigation. In the Full Bench judgment itself a comment is made about the hundreds of crores of money that was spent in the capital area in the form of building infrastructure etc., which is not being used. To permit further construction by utilizing the taxpayers money, when the entire issue is pending before the superior courts, is a factor which is weighing heavily with this Court," it added.
Observing that the question of inducting people from outside the district is a debatable issue, the court said the right to life /livelihood of farmers is involved in these matters
"For the above mentioned reasons, this Court holds that permitting further construction will not be proper or justifiable in the circumstances. In that view of the matter, this Court is of the opinion that the larger public interest is against the construction of the houses for now in R-5 Zone," it said.
Title: Neerukonda and Kuragallu Farmers Welfare Association vs The State of Andhra Pradesh
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