The Supreme Court, in staying the Andhra Pradesh high court bench decision in the matter of three capitals versus Amaravati as the sole capital, has restored the balance and helped democracy prevail.
With its stern but fair observation, “can a high court become a town planner?” the Supreme Court may have revealed its reasoning for setting aside a high court verdict that appeared to have too many flaws.
The apex court bench comprising justices K. M. Joseph and B. V. Nagarathna also, rightly, and in accordance with the most significant principles of the Constitution relating to division of power among the three pillars of a democracy, stayed the ruling of the Andhra Pradesh high court. The court may have overreached its judicial powers while transgressing into the executive domain of policy decisions.
The predominantly political issue, flowing as a consequence of the bifurcation of the state of Andhra Pradesh, had left the residual AP state without a capital; but provided for Hyderabad to be a common capital for a decade.
The first government of Andhra Pradesh, chose, rightly or wrongly, to abandon the common capital within a year of bifurcation and, envisioning a grand capital in a newly created city idea, named Amaravati, decided to put all its efforts, finances and risks in it.
Politically, and electorally, the move proved a disaster, and the Telugu Desam Party headed by N. Chandrababu Naidu was defeated. The next government, headed by YSRC party chief Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy decided, rightly or wrongly, to not back Amaravati as the capital.
Building his public argument in favour of decentralised development, the Jagan Reddy government advocated a policy of three capitals, which for all practical purposes would mean shifting the capital from the incompletely developed Amaravati to Visakhapatnam, the most developed city in the state.
The political resistance to the move of “Three Capitals”, took a legal dimension when it was challenged, in which context, and culmination, the Andhra Pradesh high court not only stayed the three capitals move, but also directed the Jagan Reddy government to build a capital within six months.
After the AP government appealed against it in the Supreme Court, it finally found an echo to its own frustration for nearly two years, when the apex bench thundered, “…is there no separation of power in Andhra Pradesh. How can a high court begin to act like the executive?”
The apex court’s arguments and counter-arguments reflected on the wisdom of the fact that the Constitution does not even clearly define what a capital city means — and all attributions of such features are either political, or social, or pragmatic, but not legal.
“Without any expertise, the AP high court wants an entire city to come up in a few months?” the duo of justices observed.
Hopefully, this will end the legal playout of an essentially political issue — the government of the day can make decisions pertaining to issues like where to build a high court, or where to have the secretariat. Whether such decisions are wise or not, whether by TDP or YSRCP, the decision is right when taken by the government of the day.
Today’s government in Andhra Pradesh, as mandated by the people, is with Jagan Mohan Reddy, and his decision on three capitals is, therefore, legally valid.