Hyderabad: In a major victory for the State government, a two-judge PIL panel of the Telangana High Court on Monday upheld the direction of the government to proceed with the construction of a new secretariat by demolishing the existing structures.
The panel comprising Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Abhishek Reddy rejected multiple pleas in a bunch of writ pleas filed by Congress MLC Jeevan Reddy, Retd Prof PL Vishweshwar Rao and others. The petitioners unsuccessfully contended that there was enough and more space in the existing building that had earlier housed the secretariat of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh.
After the requirements were drastically reduced to half, there could be no reason for a new secretariat, the petitioners argued. The decision-making process was also challenged as being arbitrary and without proper material. This also did not find judicial approval. It was also contended that such huge expenditures were ill-suited for a growing State and failed in comparison to other priority requirements. This plea also did not muster judicial scrutiny.
It may be recalled that the government not only justified the decision-making process and the need for a new secretariat but also pointed out to the life of many of the structures and for an ultra modern technology supported building in its place. Senior Counsel Satyam Reddy requested the court to keep the judgment in abeyance to enable the petitioner to file an appeal in the apex court. The panel rejected his plea.
Modern amenities proposed
The State Secretariat, abutting Hussain Sagar, comprises 10 blocks and is spread over 25.5 acres. The State government is keen on constructing a new state-of-the-art secretariat complex that will bring all scattered departments under one roof and also provide modern amenities like connectivity to the administrative staff and ministers to effectively discharge their duties. The government also wants to build an iconic structure to reflect the heritage of Telangana, and accordingly, the State Cabinet took a decision to take up construction of the new secretariat on June 19, 2019.
However in 2016, Congress leader T Jeevan Reddy, advocate T Rajinikanth Reddy and an NGO, Forum for Good Governance, filed separate petitions seeking a stay on shifting of Secretariat to other buildings and demolition of the existing structures to build the new secretariat at Erragadda. In 2019, Congress MP A Revanth Reddy, Prof PL Vishweshwar Rao, vice president of TJS also filed PILs.
The government through the Advocate General submitted to the High Court that construction of a new secretariat was the State’s prerogative and will submit plans accordingly. The government planned to spend Rs 300 crore to Rs 400 crore on the new complex which is expected to have a total area of over 4.45 lakh square feet. Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao laid the foundation stone for the new secretariat on June 27, 2019. Subsequently, all offices from the old Secretariat were relocated to BRKR Bhavan and other government buildings in the city.
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