The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Notice to Delhi on rail split

New Delhi, Sept. 13: The Supreme Court today directed the Centre to file by October 4 all relevant material on the basis of which new railway zones were created.

A division bench of Justice G.B. Pattanaik and Justice Ruma Pal issued the directive on a special leave petition by the Federation of Railway Officers’ Association against the verdicts of the high courts of Delhi and Calcutta, which had dismissed their petitions challenging the order of the government.

The apex court also asked Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee to file an affidavit within three weeks and the next hearings would commence from October 4.

The court observed that it was within its jurisdiction to examine the material on the basis of which the Centre had arrived at the conclusion that more railway zones should be created.

Senior advocate and Union law minister in the 1977 Morarji Desai-led Janata government, Shanti Bhushan, appearing for the petitioners, contended that the Centre’s decision to create seven new railway zones was “politically motivated” and the government had ignored the reports of various expert committees which were against splitting of the existing zones.

The court denied access to the materials to be supplied by the Centre to the petitioners’ counsel when Bhushan argued that he should also be given a set of the documents. He pointed out that four expert committees and six former chairmen of the railway board have opposed creation of zones. Financial constraint was cited as the main reason.

The senior counsel argued that the high courts (Calcutta and Delhi) had not examined the records and dismissed the petitions after brief hearings.

Both Delhi and Calcutta High Courts had dismissed the petitions on grounds that judicial intervention could not be done in a policy matter of the government unless an extreme case of gross violation of public interest was proved. In fact Delhi High Court had even gone to say that creation of more railway zones would benefit the public.

But the petitioners contended that creation of the seven new zones at Bhubaneswar, Jaipur, Hajipur, Hubli, Jabalpur, Allahabad and Bilaspur had caused extra burden on resources.

Sorabjee termed the public interest litigation as “political interest litigation” and told the court that the decision to create new zones was to increase the efficiency of the railways in public service and interest.

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