Petitioners call the YSRCP Government’s move to e-auction government lands for funding welfare schemes legally untenable
The YSRCP government’s “Mission Build Andhra Pradesh” landed in legal trouble before it could even take off. Cleared by the AP Cabinet in 2019, the “Mission” seeks to identify and sell unused government land at a market price to get funds for infrastructure development and flagship welfare schemes.
The AP government, with National Building Construction Corporation (India) Limited, a Navaratna Central Public Sector Undertaking under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, is auctioning vacant government land parcels through e-auction on an ‘as is where is’ basis in phases. In the first phase, six land parcels in Visakhapatnam and three in Guntur were identified for sale and listed for auction from May 28-30 at a reserve price of Rs 208.62 crore. However, the e-auction soon landed in legal trouble after five activists moved to the AP High Court against it.
While hearing the batch of PILs filed by the activists, Justices Rakesh Kumar and K. Suresh Reddy questioned the urgency in conducting the e-auction amid the lockdown. Has the financial position of the government was so precarious that it had to sell off its land parcels to meet its requirements. The Court put a brake on the proposed sale of land and ordered Additional Advocate General P. Sudhakar Reddy to file a counter-affidavit.
Guntur-based social activist Suresh Babu, Dr M Sailaja, Himabindu and K Malyadri filed PILs against the sale of land in Guntur and K Tata Rao against the land sale in Visakhapatnam.
The counsel for petitioners had appealed to the Court to issue interim orders to stop the e-auction on the grounds that selling government lands for funding welfare schemes was legally untenable, in violation of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution and against Directive Principles of State Policy. As per the 2012 land allotment policy, the government cannot sell lands for generating revenue. He further argued that the sale would benefit only private individuals.
The AP High Court later allowed the government to proceed with the process of e-auction but forbade it from approving tenders or bids for the sale of land. The e-auction is deferred as the Court posted the matter for further hearing.