Amaravati: In a setback to the Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy government, the Andhra Pradesh high court on Thursday said no government office should be shifted anywhere till it completed hearing a batch of petitions on the state capital issue.
A division bench of Chief Justice J.K. Maheshwari, Justices A.V. Sesha Sai and M. Satyanarayana Murthy, also directed the government to hand over copies of the reports of the High-Power Committee (HPC) and other committees on the capital issue to “all those concerned”.
It then posted the matter for further hearing to February 26.
Senior Supreme Court advocate Ashok Bhan represented the aggrieved farmers of Amaravati region, who filed a batch of petitions opposing the AP Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Bill, 2020 and the APCRDA (Repeal) Bill.
Former attorney general Mukul Rohatgi represented the state government.
The decentralisation Bill seeks to pave the way for the establishment of executive capital in Visakhapatnam, legislative in Amaravati and judicial capital in Kurnool, a move strongly opposed by the TDP.
On Tuesday, the TDP blocked tabling of the Bills in the state Legislative Council for eight hours, forcing five adjournments.
Though it was tabled late on Tuesday night the House was adjourned without taking up the discussion.
The state assembly had passed the Bills on Monday after 17 MLAs of the TDP were suspended and amid protests by farmers of Amaravati region, who demanded that the town be retained as the capital.
State advocate general Sriram Subrahmanyam, who assisted Rohatgi, informed about the state Legislative Council’s decision to refer the two bills to a select committee when the bench sought to know the status of the legislation.
Though Rohatgi said there was a three-month timeline under the Constitution for the select committee to consider the objections on the Bills, the court said it would hear the matter again after three weeks and posted the case to February 26.
The petitioners submitted that the HPC committed “gross contempt of the court” as it did not consider the pleas of the aggrieved farmers, though the court gave time till 2:30 pm on January 20.
The Bills were introduced in the assembly in a hurry around 12 noon on that day. The farmers were not able to present their concerns to the HPC.
If the farmers’ representations were considered by the committee, maybe the legislation might have got slightly amended, delayed or got better, they contended.
The bench then directed the state not to shift any of its offices to any other place and said the government and officials would be held responsible in the event.
Later, speaking to reporters, the petitioners’ counsel said, “The court has asked the government not to do anything nor pass any subordinate legislation. This is what we call in legal parlance as a status quo until the court hears the matter.”