Stop panchayat poll in Kotia, Koraput Collector urges Vizianagaram counterpart

Koraput: A day before Andhra Pradesh’s slated panchayat poll in three villages of Kotia in Odisha’s Koraput district, Collector Abdaal Akhtar today wrote to his Vizianagaram counterpart requesting the latter not to conduct the election in the disputed area as the matter is currently sub-judice in the Supreme Court.

“I am to bring to your attention that in Contempt Petition No. 172/2021 arising out of Original Suit No. 10/1968 (The State of Odisha Vs. M.Hari Jawaharlal and Others), the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has been pleased to issue notice to the State of Andhra Pradesh and post the case to Friday, the 19th February, 2021. In its oral observations, the Court has also observed that should the State of Andhra Pradesh go ahead with its plans as regards the subject mentioned above, necessary consequences will follow. The same was pronounced in the presence of counsel for the State of Andhra Pradesh. A copy of the associated case documents have been handed over to the counsel for the State of Andhra Pradesh,” the Collector wrote in the letter.

“I am to therefore, request you that considering the Sub-Judice nature of the matter and the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India’s oral observations, you may kindly desist from going ahead with any plan to allegedly conduct elections inside Kotia GP of Pottangi Block in the District of Koraput, Odisha,” the official said in the letter.

Notably, the border dispute between Odisha and Andhra Pradesh emerged as the latter included Talaganjeipadar, Phatuseneri and Phagunaseneri villages under its Salur block and announced panchayat polls in the three villages.

The Odisha Government then moved the Supreme Court seeking contempt of court proceedings against Andhra Pradesh, mentioning in its petition that the apex court in 1968 had ordered to maintain status quo in the disputed area of Kotia.

The Supreme Court today asked the Andhra Pradesh government to respond to the plea by the Odisha government. A bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Aniruddha Bose declined to pass an immediate order in the issue, and instead sought Andhra Pradesh government’s reply on February 19.

Senior advocate Vikas Singh, representing the Odisha government, said Andhra Pradesh is conducting the panchayat elections in the area under their administration. The top court asked advocate Mahfooz A. Nazki, standing counsel for Andhra Pradesh, to file response on the plea, and posted the matter for further hearing on next Friday.

The villages under dispute are part of Pottangi taluka in Odisha’s Koraput district. There are 21 villages in the Kotia group, which are entangled in dispute. In 1968, the status quo order was passed by the top court and the same order is holding till date, the Odisha government said.

“Administratively and otherwise as well, the state of Odisha has been in control of these villages throughout. However, of late, clandestinely the contemnors (Andhra Pradesh government) have entered into the impugned act of contempt by which the order of this court has been violated,” said the Odisha government in its plea.

On March 5, 2020, the Andhra Pradesh government issued a notification roping in three villages from the Kotia group of villages into its Vizianagaram district for the local body elections.

“Tactfully the contemnors converted these three villages of one gram panchayat falling under territory of Odisha to three different gram panchayats. The said three-gram panchayat created by the contemnor were made part of the Salur Mandal (of Vizianagaram),” the plea, filed through advocate Sibo Sankar Mishra, added.

The Odisha government cited that the top court in its final hearing in 2006, recorded the status quo undertaking given by both states while disposing of the suit. “Over the years, the petitioner state has taken many development initiatives in the said three villages and has built infrastructure like schools, police stations, roads, bridges etc. for the people of these villages,” it argued.

(with IANS inputs)

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