It observed the Andhra Pradesh High Court cannot be a “town planner” or an “engineer” and direct the government that the capital city should come up in six months.
A bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna also stayed time-bound directions issued by the high court, including the one that said the state will construct and develop Amaravati capital city and capital region within six months.
“The question is can the High Court become a town planner and an engineer and want the entire capital city come up in months. Even maps can’t be prepared in months and it wants the entire city to come up in six months. Can a constitutional court exercise this kind of power and issue directions to the government?
“Courts are not government and that’s why we often say that court’s are not experts and pass orders in these kinds of matters”, Justice Nagarathna said.
The bench said the more urban centers, the better it is but courts cannot be executive and issue these kinds of directions to the government.
“A constitutional court cannot pass these kinds of mandamus. What is there for electoral representatives to do or what is there for the legislature to do, if courts start passing these kinds of directions?” Justice Nagarathna said.
The high court had also ordered the government and the authorities concerned to complete infrastructure development like roads, drainage and electricity and drinking water supply in the Amaravati Capital City and Region within one month.
The high court had passed its 300-page verdict on a batch of 63 writ petitions filed by aggrieved farmers of Amaravati region against the Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy government’s decision to make Visakhapatnam the Executive Capital, Kurnool the Judicial Capital and Amaravati the Legislative Capital of Andhra Pradesh.
The SC bench said it needs to examine the issue at length and posted a batch of petitions filed by the State, farmer associations and their committees for further hearing on January 31.
The top court, which asked the parties to file their responses by December, was informed by senior advocate KK Venugopal that the state government has repealed the law for having three different capitals.
Venugopal, along with standing counsel Mahfooz Ahsan Nazki, appearing for the state government, said the validity of the decentralisation Act, which contemplated three capitals, was under challenge before the high court but after it was repealed, these batch of pleas became infructuous.
“Now, if the court decides to interfere, my respectful submission is that it will interfere with the functioning of the legislature. The high court cannot direct that a law be made in a particular manner. This is purely a governance issue.
“The high court said the state does not have legislative competence and within one month restore Amaravati as capital of the state. This cannot be done,” Venugopal said.
The bench said if the issue affects the fundamental rights of the people, then the courts can interfere.
“The high court is stationed in Amravati. The farmers have given their land and public funds were utilised. There were contracts with the farmers under the law that you give land and we will give you benefits. We will interfere in this matter, if it relates to statutory contracts,” the bench said, and added it needs to protect the interest of 2,900 farmers, who gave their land.
The bench then asked the advocate general of the state about the functioning of the high court and said it has received a complaint that due to lack of basic amenities in the building it was not able to function properly.
The Advocate General told the bench that the high court has been functioning properly for the past one-and-a-half years and, as far as basic amenities are concerned, those are being provided including a canteen.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the farmers, said they pooled their agricultural and non-agricultural land and gave to the state as they were promised they will be given certain benefits including a commercial space in the new city but nothing has happened.
He said since 2019, nothing has happened and showed some photographs to buttress his point that construction work has been abandoned mid-way by the government.
“Over 2,900 farmers, who gave up their 33,000 acres of land are now left with nothing. They have given up their livelihood because the state promised them benefits,” Divan said.
On March 3, the high court had said the “inaction” of the State and Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority’s (APCRDA) failure to develop the capital city and capital region, as agreed to in terms of the Development Agreement-cum-Irrevocable General Power of Attorney, is nothing but a deviation from the promise made by the State, defeating legitimate expectation.
It said the State and the APCRDA violated the fundamental rights of the petitioners (farmers), as they surrendered their only source of livelihood –over 33,000 acres of fertile land.
It had said Parliament alone is competent to undertake such exercise and not the state legislature, and observed a “change of government is not a ground to change the policy”.