Sep 23, 2022

Can a State Decide to Change its Capital?

Guest post by Pallavi Mohan

In June 2014, a north-western section from the original State of Andhra Pradesh was carved out to create a separate state of Telangana. Since then, the question of what will be the new capital of Andhra Pradesh has remained controversial. Let us look at how state capitals are decided.

How is the capital of a state decided?

Article 3 of the Constitution allows the Parliament to enact laws to form new states, and to alter the areas, boundaries, or names of existing states. Article 4 allows Parliament to include any other required provisions in those laws. Parliament enacted such a law to create the new states of Andhra Pradesh  and Telangana.  

When Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were split, the Parliament exercised its power under Article 4 to make a provision in the act about the capital of the new state. Section 5 of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 stated that Hyderabad would remain the common capital of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh for 10 years. After this, Hyderabad will be the capital of Telangana and there will be a new capital for Andhra Pradesh. Section 6 of the Act permitted the Union Government to form an expert committee to make recommendations about the new capital for Andhra Pradesh. 

Based on these recommendations, the Andhra Pradesh assembly passed the AP Capital Region Development Authority Act of 2014 (APCRDA Act) identifying the capital region and the capital city area in the Vijayawada-Guntur region and establishing the authority for the development of the capital city, Amravati.

What steps has the government taken since 2014 for developing the capital of Andhra Pradesh?

In 2015, the government notified the AP Capital City Land Pooling Scheme (Formation and Implementation) Rules. As per the rules, the land was to be pooled in the area identified as the capital region for the development of Amravati. All landowners who surrendered their lands for pooling would receive reconstituted plots after 3 years. 

In 2019, there was a change in the political regime in Andhra Pradesh. The new government proposed 3 capitals for the state – Amravati, the legislative capital; Visakhapatnam, the executive capital; and Kurnool, the judicial capital. To bring this into effect, the AP assembly enacted the AP Capital Region Development Authority Repeal Act, 2020 and the AP Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Act, 2020.

The land owners who had surrendered their land for the development of the capital challenged these Acts before the High Court of Andhra Pradesh. In March 2022, the High Court allowed the challenge. Recently, the AP government filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the High Court’s decision. 

What was the reasoning behind the  Andhra Pradesh High Court’s decision? 

The High Court held that: 

  • the AP Reorganisation Act differed from earlier acts of reorganisation since it had a specific provision about the capital of Andhra Pradesh, which was to be decided based on the recommendations of an expert committee. Since the Parliament had already decided on this question, if the Andhra government wanted to change the capital from Amravati to another, it should make a representation to the Centre or the Parliament to amend the AP Reorganisation Act. 
  • the state legislature does not have the authority to make any laws to change, shift or divide the capital or the three civic wings (legislature, executive, judiciary) from Amravati to any other city. 
  • more than 33,000 acres of land have already been pooled in Amravati and Rs. 15,000 crores have been spent as expenditure towards its development. So, the Andhra government must complete the work of development of Amravati as the capital within 6 months of the judgement.  It has to develop the surrendered land along with the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority and return reconstituted plots to landowners within 3 months.  


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