In a setback to the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in Andhra Pradesh, the Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to stay a high court order from March last year on developing Amaravati as the state capital.
The Andhra Pradesh High Court had told the YSR Congress Party government to develop Amaravati as the state’s capital within six months.
A Supreme Court bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagaratna said the court will hear the request along with other petitions related to the matter on July 11.
Justice Joseph is to retire on June 16 and the matter is expected to come up before a new bench in July.
Visakhapatnam to be Andhra capital
Earlier in January, Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy had announced in the state Assembly that Visakhapatnam would be the new Andhra Pradesh capital in the coming months, and he would be relocating and working from the coastal city from July.
It was the first time that Jagan Reddy made a mention of the capital in the last three years in office. Though Jagan Reddy proposed three capitals, he often referred to developing Visakhapatnam as the executive capital of the state.
After the northwestern part of Andhra Pradesh was separated and the state of Telangana was formed in 2014, Hyderabad was to be the common capital for both states for 10 years.
World Class Capital at Amaravati
Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N Chandrababu Naidu was elected Chief Minister of the new state of Telangana. After Andhra Pradesh lost the region’s economic powerhouse, its capital of Hyderabad, to Telangana, Naidu announced that he would build a world-class greenfield capital at Amaravati. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, attended the ground-breaking ceremony.
Even though the state lacked funds, thousands of acres of land were acquired and grand plans were made for building the new capital.
When Jagan Mohan Reddy became the CM in May 2019, his government alleged massive real estate fraud in land acquisition, abandoned plans for a new capital in Amaravati, and scrapped the AP Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA).
The three capital plan
Stating Telangana would have three capitals instead of one as it would lead to development across regions, Reddy passed the Capital Region Development Authority Repeal Bill 2020 and the AP Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of all Regions Bill 2020, which was for decentralising AP’s capital among Amaravati, Visakhapatnam and Kurnool.
According to the plan, Amaravati would retain the state assembly and would become the legislative capital, Visakhapatnam would be the seat of power from where the government would function or the executive capital, and Kurnool would have the state’s judiciary.
However, the plan faced legal complications, and in November 2021, the government decided to withdraw the AP Decentralisation Act and the CRDA Repeal Act.
The decision on the matter came in the wake of Amaravati farmers’ protest over the government move.
The farmers, who had parted with their fertile agricultural lands for the development of the state’s new capital city, had been agitating against the ruling YSR Congress Party’s move.
Amaravati farmer protest
According to Naidu’s plan, the new capital of Amaravati was to be built on over 33,000 acres of land. To encourage farmers to give up their land voluntarily for the project, the TDP government launched a land pooling scheme in December 2014. Under the land pooling scheme, the government develops farmland into urban real estate, raising its value, and returns a portion of the land to the original owner.
The land pooling scheme was accepted by some farmers on the understanding that once the capital was built, businesses would flock to the region, and the plots given to the farmers would become high-value real estate.
With over 30,000 acres of land in 29 villages already pooled for the capital, the announcement by Jagan Reddy led to panic among the residents, and they began demonstrating against the government.
Andhra Pradesh High Court order
On March 3 last year, the Andhra Pradesh High Court delivered a landmark judgment in favour of Amaravati farmers and ruled that the state government does not have the legislative competence to change the capital, and asked for the capital to be built at Amaravati as per the master plan given in the CRDA Act, in six months.
Challenging the HC’s orders, the AP government moved Supreme Court.