By LE Desk

Vijayawada, April 15: A Division Bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, comprising Justices J. Bagchi and M. Ganga Rao, issued a notice to the Union government on Thursday directing it to file a counter affidavit on the proposed strategic sale of its stake in the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP) in response to a PIL filed by CBI former Joint Director V.V. Lakshminarayana.

The petitioner’s argument was that the Central government could not take a unilateral decision to divest its stake from a public entity without ensuring compliance with the promise of jobs made to the land oustees, and send them for negotiations with a private party.

Appearing for Mr. Lakshminarayana, senior counsel B. Adinarayana Rao said the court was bound to look into the Central government’s decision since it was affecting the fundamental rights of not only the land oustees but also a large number of others who were employed in the PSU directly and indirectly, The Hindu reported.

The court observed that an “unwise or unpopular decision ought to be taken up for debate elsewhere and not in a courtroom unless a statutory violation is pointed out and it warrants the court’s interference.”

Representing the Andhra Pradesh government, Advocate-General S. Sriram said the court was entitled, within the limited space of judicial review, to scrutinise whether the Central government took the decision to divest its stake in VSP after considering the available alternatives.

He pointed out that the State had addressed two letters to the Union government suggesting alternatives (reducing the input cost by providing captive mines, monetising the land bank etc.) for making the plant commercially viable.

The Central government could, therefore, be asked to explain its stand on the matter.

After recording the submissions, the court issued a notice to it (Central government) to answer the above, while keeping the question of maintainability of the writ petition open.

The case was adjourned by four weeks.

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