Telangana resumes Secretariat demolition as apex court, HC give green signal

Supreme Court refuses to entertain the issue as HC had already made a decision on its merits.
Demolition of old Secretariat buildings resumed right after the Supreme Court gave a verdict in favour of the State government on Friday
Demolition of old Secretariat buildings resumed right after the Supreme Court gave a verdict in favour of the State government on Friday

HYDERABAD: Paving way for demolition of old Secretariat buildings and construction of a new integrated Secretariat complex at Saifabad in Hyderabad, both the Supreme Court and Telangana High Court on Friday dismissed the petitions filed before it against its demolition.

The apex court bench, comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah, dismissed the petition filed by senior Congress leader T Jeevan Reddy, saying that the High Court had already made a decision on the merits of the case, hence it would not entertain the issue.

The bench said that the government’s decision to demolish the Secretariat buildings was not open to judicial review. It also said that the construction of a new Secretariat is the prerogative of the State government and it would not interfere in the policy matters.  

The Congress leader challenged the order passed by the Telangana High Court, refusing to intervene in the State government’s policy decision to demolish old Secretariat buildings and to construct a new complex at Saifabad, adjacent to Hussain Sagar.

Meanwhile,  a division bench of Telangana High Court, comprising Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice B Vijaysen Reddy, dismissed the PIL filed by Telangana Jana Samithi vice-president Prof PL Vishweshwar Rao and Cheruku Sudhakar of Telangana Inti Party, saying that it do not find any merits in the PIL.

The bench took into consideration the submission of Assistant Solicitor General N Rajeshwar Rao, appearing for the Central government counsel, that the demolition activity does not require prior environmental clearance as per the Environment Impact Assessment notification, 2006.

The word “preparation of land” has not been defined either in the Environmental Protection Act or in the EIA notification, 2006. The only rider the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority attaches to the Telangana government is that environmental clearance is necessary to be obtained from it before the “actual commencement of the constructions/activity or excavation of the foundation”, the bench noted.

The ASG while placing a letter from the Ministry of Environment and Forest, told the court that there is no need for the State to take prior environmental clearance under the EIA Notification, 2006 to demolish the subject buildings. As per provisions of the notification, a standalone building demolition activity does not require prior environment clearance. The State can obtain necessary permissions from the local authority concerned for demolition purpose, he added.

The petitioners filed the PIL alleging that the demolition of old Secretariat buildings violates the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules, 2016, Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, Environment Protection Act, 1986 and various judgements of the Supreme Court and High Court.  

Petitioners’ counsel Chikkudu Prabhakar contended that the “preparation of land” would include demolition of the standing structure at the site. No future construction can be raised until the standing structures are demolished. The AG contended that the words “construction activity” and “preparation of land” have to be read co-jointly.

“Preparation of land” does not mean demolishing the standing structure or clearing the land for raising a future construction. He submitted that the State Cabinet meeting could not be convened due to pandemic situation. On June 30, a file was circulated to the Cabinet and it has unanimously decided to demolish the old Secretariat and construct a state-of-the-art complex. The decision was placed before the court in a sealed cover.On July 10, the HC passed interim orders staying the demolition and later extended it thrice — till July 17.

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