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Govt clears Telangana bill as SC keeps off
- Hyderabad not to be made Union territory, Wednesday date likely for House

New Delhi, Feb. 7: The Union cabinet today approved the Telangana bill with Hyderabad as the joint capital for 10 years, hours after the Supreme Court declined to stay the legislation.

The bill will be introduced in Parliament on February 12, and the government will go the whole hog to get it passed immediately.

Demands from Andhra leaders to declare Hyderabad a Union territory were rejected. Without making any fundamental changes in the draft bill, the cabinet decided to transfer some villages in Bhadrachalam to Andhra in addition to a huge financial package for infrastructure development in the coastal and Rayalaseema areas.

The bill could be introduced in the Rajya Sabha first. Angry Andhra MPs from different parties have again moved a no-confidence motion against the government but are unlikely to get support. The government would like to announce the creation of Telangana this month itself.

The Congress core committee also met this evening to discuss ways of implementing the bifurcation plan but did not make anything public. The committee was expected to decide the fate of chief minister Kiran Reddy but no hint was given tonight.

In Hyderabad, Reddy told aides who met him this morning: “I feel like I am unwanted in this post, I should quit as early as possible.”

The Supreme Court’s five-line order dismissing a batch of eight PILs challenging the bifurcation decision was a blow to Reddy and other leaders opposing the creation of Telangana, who were looking at the legal option as their last weapon.

In the 90-minute arguments, the petitioners had said a separate state cannot be carved out when the Andhra Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council had both rejected the proposal.

“Heard learned counsel in the… writ petitions filed before us, we do not see any change in the stage between 18-11-2013 and of now. We decline to entertain the writ petitions at this stage. All the writ petitions are accordingly dismissed. However, it is open to the petitioners to approach this court for any directions at the appropriate time,” Justice H.L. Dattu, writing the order for the two-judge bench that included Justice S.A. Bobde, said.

On November 18 last year, the apex court had dismissed three PILs on the issue saying the matter was “too premature.”

During the arguments, senior counsel and former solicitor-general Rohinton Nariman assailed the Centre’s decision to introduce the bifurcation bill and urged the court to stay the move, saying otherwise the “situation will become irreversible”.

The government was planning to introduce the bill on February 10 and hence it should be stayed, he said.

Nariman told the court that since this was the first time a separate state was sought to be created under Article 3, without the concurrence of the state Assembly and Council, the matter ought to be heard by a Constitution bench of five or seven judges. Article 3 does not say what the situation should be if the state legislature rejects the bifurcation plan, he argued.

Another senior counsel, M.N. Rao, argued that the Centre’s decision to proceed in spite of the state’s opposition was a serious erosion of the country’s federal structure.