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Kotiya Dispute- No Question Of Contempt As No Direction Was Passed By Supreme Court: Andhra Pradesh Responds To Odisha's Contempt Plea

Srishti Ojha
18 Feb 2021 4:17 AM GMT
Kotiya Dispute- No Question Of Contempt As No Direction Was Passed By Supreme Court: Andhra Pradesh Responds To Odishas Contempt Plea
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The Andhra Pradesh Government has submitted its response before the Supreme Court in the contempt plea filed by the State of Odisha alleging that the former had taken over certain villages belonging to the latter in violation of an order of the Apex Court. A Bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar on its last hearing had heard the matter and directed the State, to file a response to...

The Andhra Pradesh Government has submitted its response before the Supreme Court in the contempt plea filed by the State of Odisha alleging that the former had taken over certain villages belonging to the latter in violation of an order of the Apex Court.

A Bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar on its last hearing had heard the matter and directed the State, to file a response to the plea.

Through their affidavit before the Court, the proposed contemners of the case have argued that there is no question of committing a contempt on their part as no direction was passed by the Court. They have submitted that through the present petition, the State of Odisha is seeking to achieve what it failed to achieve when its suit before the Apex Court was dismissed in 2006 for not being maintainable under Article 131 of the Indian Constitution. However according to the statement recorded by the Court, it is evident that the statement regarding status quo was made after dismissal of suit by the Court, and the Court did not intend to pass any direction to that effect. The Affidavit has relied upon these statements recorded by the court:

"...The parties now consent that the order of status quo may continue until it is varied by an appropriate authority in accordance with law. Since we have dismissed the suit, we can only and do hereby record this agreement between the parties.

... it is most respectfully submitted that assuming that there was any undertaking given to the Hon'ble Court by the parties, it is settled law that an action for contempt can only taken in respect of breach of undertaking if this Hon'ble Court has passed an order on the basis of such an undertaking. There was no such undertaking in the present matter. To the contrary, the Hon'ble Court was not at all influenced by the agreements by the parties in passing the 2006 judgement. The Hon'ble Court categorically noted, after dismissal of the suit, that it was merely recording the fact that parties had entered into a contract" - The affidavit reads.

Therefore according to the State of Andhra Pradesh, by no stretch of imagination can it be stated that there was a breach of undertaking or of any order passed by the Court, and the contempt petition alleging contempt on their part is liable to be dismissed on this ground alone.

Andhra Pradesh Government has further informed the Court that it has taken no step in violation of any agreement and has been duly administering its own territory without infringing upon the territory of Odisha.

Through its affidavit, the state of Andhra Pradesh has further contended that the three concerned villages including Ganjaybadra, Pattuchennuru and Paguluchennuru fall within the jurisdiction of Andhra Pradesh and not within Orrisa. To support its contention, the State has submitted that the Andhra Pradesh Government has consistently held elections to both Lok Sabha and State Assembly since 1952. The local body Elections have also been conducted since the inception of Panchayati Raj. The Andhra Pradesh government has provided the Court with the results of these elections, the persons elected through them, electoral rolls, list of votes cast and extract from several Census that show that these villages fell within Andhra Pradesh.

The Andhra government has argued that the state of Odisha appears to be raising a substantive dispute in respect of these villages in the guise of a contempt petition, and as already ruled by Supreme Court through its 2006 judgment, the Court doesn't have jurisdiction to entertain such matters.

'It is settled law that what cannot be done directly- can certainly not be done indirectly' - the affidavit reads.

The affidavit has been filed by two of the proposed contemners, District Collector Mude Hari Jawaharlal and Chief Secretary of State Adityanath Das, through their Counsel Advocate Mahfooz A Nazki.

Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar had on 12th February 2021 directed Andhra Pradesh to file a response after Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, appearing on behalf of the State of Odisha, alleged that local body elections were going to be held in the three villages which the Andhra Pradesh Government took over from Odisha in violation of a status quo order of the Supreme Court.

The contempt petition relates to Kotia group of villages which was a subject matter of an original suit filed by Orissa(as it was called then) in 1968 against the undivided state of Andhra Pradesh.

Supreme Court had in 2006 through its judgment dismissed the suit as non-maintainable under Article 131 of the Constitution. However, the Court recorded in its order passed on March 30, 2006, an earlier undertaking given by both the states in 1968 to maintain status quo with respect to the dispute. The Odisha has now alleged that Andhra Pradesh has violated this status quo order, which was passed on the basis of consent of both parties.

The contempt petition, filed through Advocate Sibo Sankar Mishra, has stated that while issuing notification for local body election in Vizianagaram district last year, the Andhra Government "clandestinely roped in" three villages from the Kotia group of villages falling within Koraput district of Odisha and have included them in Vizianagaram district with new names. It is alleged that these notifications, issued on March 5, 2020 by the government under YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, were kept a "dead secret".

The plea contended that these villages have always been its part administratively and that it has undertaken several developmental activities in the region over the years. The elections for the Parliament, State Assembly and local bodies have been taking place in these villages since inception. There has been no impediment whatsoever legally or otherwise in conducting election either to the assembly, parliament or for the local body at any point in time created by the state of Andhra Pradesh and this is for the first time that the election have been sought to be held in the disputed villages by the AP Government.


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