Rae Bareli rail project plea to be heard Nov 11 (Lead)

October 22nd, 2008 - 9:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia GandhiLucknow, Oct 22 (IANS) The Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court Wednesday decided to hear Nov 11 a petition on the land allotment for a rail coach factory in Rae Bareli, which has sparked a war of words between Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.The Northern Railway had filed a writ petition, along with a public interest litigation (PIL) by villagers of Rae Bareli, on Oct 13, two days after the Uttar Pradesh government withdrew the 400 acres of land it had given for the proposed factory in Lalganj town.

However, the state government led by Mayawati, sensing that the decision could have a negative political fallout, returned the land to the railway Oct 18.

Mayawati might have backtracked on the cancellation of allotment of land for India’s third rail coach factory in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson’s parliamentary constituency, but the central government seemed to be in no mood to bring the on-going battle over the land to an early end.

The central government’s counsel on Wednesday sought more time to file a rejoinder to the state government’s plea for dismissal of the writ petition filed by the Northern Railway.

“The government counsel pleaded before the court to cancel the case as the land has already been given back to the railways. However, the court listed the matter for Nov 11,” Mohammad Arif Khan, counsel of the petitioner, told reporters after the hearing.

The court had earlier ruled for a “status quo” in the case when the Northern Railway moved the petition seeking stay against the state government’s order for cancelling the allotment.

The cancellation was ordered a day before Sonia Gandhi was to arrive in Rae Bareli for ‘bhumi pujan’ to mark the foundation laying of the factory last week.

It was widely believed that Mayawati agreed to withdraw her cancellation order only after the intervention of the court, which had sought submission of all records relating to the allotment to 189 hectares of land.

While the central government officials declined to make any comment, Uttar Pradesh government’s chief standing counsel D.K. Upadhaya felt that “the manner in which the central government was now dilly-dallying, shows that their real intention was not to perform ‘bhumi-pujan’ but to play politics in the name of the rail coach factory”.

He said in court: “Now that the state has re-allotted the land to the railways after following the due process of law, the writ petition moved by the Indian Railways becomes infructuous and therefore deserves to be dismissed.”

He wondered “why the central government wanted to linger on with the issue?”

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