Another SC bench declines to hear Vedanta University case

New Delhi: Yet another Supreme Court bench on Friday refused to hear an appeal against the Orissa high court verdict, which held as `illegal` the acquisition of nearly 7,500 acres for the Rs15,000-crore Vedanta University Project in the holy city of Puri.

A bench of Justice GS Singhvi and Justice AK Ganguly recused itself from adjudicating the issue, nearly a fortnight after another bench of Justice RV Raveendran and AK Patnaik had withdrawn from the case on January 5.

The apex court bench withdrew from the case today, saying that one of its judges, Justice Ganguly had dealt this same matter and passed some order earlier during his tenures as the chief justice of the Orissa high court. It ordered for listing of matter with another bench.

The bench of Justice Raveendran and Justice Patnaik had refused to hear the issue to avoid any conflict of interest as Justice Patnaik hails from Orissa.

The bench was to hear appeals by the state government and the Anil Agarwal foundation, the promoter of the project, against the Orissa high court`s decision which held that land acquisition procedures for the proposed Vedanta University project were illegal.

The Orissa government and the foundation, promoted by the UK-based Vedanta group, had challenged the November16 decision of the high court which had quashed the land acquisition notification citing 17 reasons.

The high court had also directed Vedanta to return the land to its various owners.

At least two PILs and six individual petitions have been filed in the high court since 2007, challenging the state government`s notification on the land acquisition procedures. The petitions said that Land Acquisition Company rules, 1963, had not been properly followed.

The proposed multi-disciplinary university project would have caused extreme debilitating impact on the eco system as well as the local bio-diversity, the petitioners had contended.

Congress leader Umaballav Rath had filed the first PIL in the high court challenging the varsity project, envisaged on 500 acres of the temple land.

The petitioners had pointed out that the proposed university project site, which was to come up near Puri about 60km from Orissa`s capital Bhubaneswar, was close to Balukhand Konark Black Buck sanctuary and a river.

They had also objected to inclusion of a large chunk of land belonging to Lord Jagannath temple in the proposed site.

The petitioners had also questioned the status of the company saying it was not properly formed as per the Company`s Act. The Foundation had signed an MoU with Orissa government on July 19, 2006 to set up a university near Puri.

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