Vedanta varsity: SC orders status quo

Bhubaneswar/New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the state government to maintain status quo on acquisition of 6,000 hectares of land for setting up proposed multi disciplinary university on Puri-Konark marine drive.

An apex court bench of Justice D.K. Jain and Justice H.L. Dattu ordered status quo on the "nature, character and possession" of the land acquired or sought to be acquired.

Earlier, two different benches of the apex court had refused to hear the cross-appeals saying that one or the other judges had been linked to the adjudication of the issue before.

The state government and the Anil Agarwal Foundation, which promotes the project, appealed against a decision of the Orissa High Court which citing 17 reasons held that land acquisition procedures for the proposed Vedanta University project were illegal.

“The Supreme court has order to maintain status quo on land acquisition and has also accepted the special leave petition (SLP) of the state government,” Vedanta Foundation lawyer Biswabihari Mohanty said.

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

Appearing for one of over half a dozen petitioners against the project, counsel Prashant Bhushan contended that the state government began acquiring land for setting up of a world class university by a group, which does not have the experience of establishing even a primary school.

He also contended that Land Acquisition Company Rules, 1963, had not been properly followed by the state government.

The high court had given its verdict on two public interest lawsuits and six individual petitions, challenging the state government`s notification on the land acquisition procedures.

Another petitioner opposing the project contended that the proposed multi-disciplinary university project would cause extreme debilitating impact on the eco system as well as the local bio-diversity.

Yet another petitioner, who is opposing the project is Vedanta University Sangharsh Samiti convener Umaballav Rath. He had earlier filed a PIL in the high court challenging the varsity project on the ground that it was envisaged on 500 acres of the temple land.

“The apex court has order to maintain status quo. This order is victory of Lord Jagannath and the people of Orissa,” Vedanta University Sangharsh Samiti convener Umaballav Rath said.

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