War of words over Secretariat buildings’ demolition in HC

The Bench posted the matter to Monday

Can the government’s decisions be reviewed by courts unless they violated statutory or constitutional provisions?

Arguments in a batch of pleas related to the State government’s decision to demolish Secretariat buildings centred around this moot point in the Telangana High Court on Wednesday.

Additional Advocate General J. Ramchander Rao contended that the government’s decisions cannot be challenged unless they contravened the statutes or the Constitution.

T. Rajinikanth Reddy, counsel for one of the petitioners, argued that the apex court made it clear through several verdicts that a government’s decisions are amenable to judicial review.

The Bench comprising Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice A. Abhishek Reddy, after seeking clarifications on different points on the matters during the arguments, posted the matter to Monday.

The Bench began hearing a batch of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petitions, which challenged the government’s decision to raze Secretariat buildings, after Dasara. The technical committee told the government that five out of the eight Secretariat buildings were in a dilapidated condition, the AAG said.

“While G Block is 133 years old, C Block, housing the CM’s office, does not have all amenities and required space,” he said. Offices of several other departments were also scattered in different parts of the city, he added. The government required nearly 10 lakh square feet built-up space to accommodate its offices. He cited a judgment of Madras HC, which allowed shifting of the Secretariat. The same verdict was eventually upheld by the SC too, the AAG told the bench. He contended that courts have limitations in reviewing the government’s decisions.Mr. Rao told the court that the present Secretariat buildings lacked the required space for its offices. The electrical work and the plumbing in these buildings was done nearly two decades ago. Renovation of the buildings meant overshoot of costs and the maintenance of the old buildings too was costing too high, the AAG said. Already, fire accidents were reported in blocks J, L and H, he said.

Observing that the report of the technical committee was ‘vaguely worded’, the Bench said it didn’t have precise details like which block lacked what amenities. Rajinikanth Reddy said the Council of Ministers did not take a decision to demolish the buildings but top officials were heading for it.

Even the Fire Safety Director General’s report did not recommend demolition of the buildings but recommended to take additional safety measures. This apparently didn’t include demolition of buildings, the lawyer argued. Referring to the AAG’s contention, he said that the HC had power to review the policy decisions of the government if the decisions were arbitrary and unreasonable.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 10:08:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/war-of-words-over-secretariat-buildings-demolition-in-hc/article29719627.ece

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