Mrunal Manmay Dash

The Orissa High Court has directed the state government not to form any new district while hearing a writ petition alleging that many new districts were created without laying down any criteria at the caprice and whims of the government.

A division bench of acting Chief Justice BR Sarangi and Justice Murahari Sri Raman on Thursday ruled that the process of reorganization of district, which the State government wants to undertake may continue, but the State cannot pass any final order without the consent of High Court.

The bench passed the order while hearing the writ petition in the nature of public interest litigation filed by Akshaya Kumar Mohanty, President of Rairangpur Bar Association and District Kriyanusthan Committee.

Advocate General AK Parija and Additional Government Advocate DK Mohanty appeared for the government and sought time to obtain instructions in the matter by the next date. The matter has been listed two weeks after the winter holidays.

The petitioner in the writ petition sought direction to the State government to constitute a high-level committee under the chairmanship of an incumbent or retired Judge of High Court in order to examine the demands for creation of new districts in Odisha.

The petitioner further sought direction to the State government to declare Rairangpur as a new district taking Bamanghati (commonly known as Rairangpur) and Panchapid (commonly known as Karanjia) sub-divisions under its fold.

In its report, the Districts Re-organization Committee in 1975 had laid out some guidelines to be followed by the State government for creation of new district.

(i)15-20 lakhs population

(ii) Minimum of 15000 square km in area relaxable in certain circumstances

(iii) economic condition and backwardness of the area

But a Cabinet sub-committee constituted in 1993 gave a go-ahead to create 17 new districts allegedly without taking into account the recommended guidelines of the Districts Re-organization Committee-1975.

The petitioner alleged that 17 new districts were created at the caprice and whims of the government. And the same is happening again only for political gains.

The High Court observed that new districts have been created at the caprice and whims of the government and the State is going to make further districts without having any guidelines or principles in place.

It is pertinent to mention here that the locals of Kantabanji, Titilagarh and Padampur have been demanding to announce them as separate districts. And with 2024 elections around the corner, the Odisha government was reportedly all set to announce Padampur as a new district.

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