Legal issues may plague State government’s Three-capital decision

Based on these recommendations, the present location of the capital was identified by the then government and a unanimous resolution was passed in the legislature.

Published: 15th January 2020 07:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th January 2020 07:50 AM   |  A+A-

Against the backdrop of the State government’s decision to have three capitals, it is necessary to examine the AP Reorganisation Act-2014, which contains a specific provision on the establishment of the new capital for the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh. The Act came into force on June 2, 2014. Ten districts in the erstwhile Telangana area were formed into a new state called the State of Telangana and the remaining comprise the State of Andhra Pradesh.

Section 5(1) of the Act states that on and from the Appointed Day, Hyderabad shall be the common capital for Telangana and residuary AP for such period not exceeding 10 years. Sub-section 2 clarifies that after the expiry of that period, Hyderabad shall be the capital of Telangana and there shall be a new capital for AP. Though Section 5(1) stipulates that Hyderabad shall be the common capital for such period not exceeding 10 years, the period has not been determined. It has to be construed that a new capital should be formed within 10 years. The word ‘capital’ contemplated under the Act should be understood as a place where the seat of principal administration is located. It is only in this context that it was mentioned that Hyderabad will be the common capital.

Section 6 of the Act mandates that the Central government shall constitute an expert committee to study alternatives regarding the new capital for the successor state of AP and make recommendations in a period not exceeding six months from the date of enactment of the Reorganisation Act. The Central government had constituted the Sivaramakrishnan Committee to study alternatives regarding the new capital and the committee recommended four broad clusters: Vijayawada -Guntur, Greater Municipal Corporation of Visakhapatnam, Nellore, and Tripalli–Kalahasthi in Rayalaseema.

It also ranked Vijayawada urban area and Guntur urban areas as first and second respectively in connectivity, first and third respectively in regional development and second and third respectively in water resources.

Based on these recommendations, the present location of the capital was identified by the then government and a unanimous resolution was passed in the legislature. Thereafter, the legislature enacted the AP Capital Region Development Act to establish the capital.

Now, the question that arises is whether the new government is empowered to reopen the issue by reconstituting a committee for the same purpose, or whether it has to request the Centre to form a committee under Section 6 of the Act for making recommendations.

The State Reorganisation Act, 1956 does not contemplate any method to identify a capital for respective states constituted under the Act. Similarly, neither of the Acts under which the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand were formed contemplate any provision for establishment of the capital. The AP Reorganisation Act, 2014 contemplates a provision for identifying an ideal place for establishment of a capital by appointing a committee. Obviously, the said provision was introduced taking into account the possible controversies that may crop up post bifurcation inter-se between the three areas i.e., North, Costal and Rayalaseema.

The said power was not conferred upon the State government, which was only given power to exercise choice among the committee’s recommendations. The provision also mandates that the committee submit a report within six months. But a new capital can be established within 10 years. This shows that the intention of the Act was to provide sufficient time to act upon the recommendation of the committee.
A careful reading of Section 6 shows that it contemplates only one capital for the entire successor state of AP and the same has to be based on the recommendations of a committee constituted by the Central government. Accordingly, the Sivaramakrishnan Committee was constituted. Its report is a statutory report under Section 6 of the Act.

The word ‘alternatives’ mentioned in Section 6 should be understood in relation to place of setting up of the Capital, but cannot be interpreted to mean more than one capital. The said report was already acted upon by the National Green Tribunal when a question was raised with regard to the present capital region. The NGT had issued directions to the State government to comply with the issues pertaining to the environment.

Recently, the State government appointed the GN Rao Committee for the same purpose. The committee appears to have submitted a report contemplating an idea of setting up three capitals in three regions. It is not a statutory committee formed under Section 6 of the Act so as to decide any aspect with regard to making a recommendation for setting up a capital.

The government, in the best interests of uniform development of the State, may have decided to establish three capitals. The major legal impediment that may arise in pursuing this may be the legal sanctity of the GN Rao Committee’s reports. The first objection that may be raised by the persons opposing such an ingenious concept would be that the GN Rao Committee report may not have a statutory sanctity. The same objection may also be raised in relation to the study made by the Boston Consulting Group.

The probable recourse for the government for implementation of such an ingenious policy would be to pass a resolution in the Assembly and forward it to the Central government with a request to constitute a new committee under Section 6 of the Act. The State government may also rely upon the existing Sivaramakrishnan Committee. But the committee recommended only one capital though three preferences were given.

Now, a statutory committee has to be formed to study the aspect of establishment of three capitals. The GN Rao Committee’s reports or the Boston Consulting Group’s study cannot form a basis for a decision to implement the policy of three capitals. The power to constitute a panel for making recommendations is within the domain of the Central government under Section 6 of the Act.

Chittarvu Raghu
Advocate, High Court’s of AP & TS

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