Amaravati: Centre asserts its right to disinvest

In the counter filed before AP HC on the petition by former CBI JD Lakshminarayana challenging the privatisation of Visakha steel plant
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In the counter filed before AP HC on the petition by former CBI JD Lakshminarayana challenging the privatisation of Visakha steel plant

Highlights

Taking a firm view of its position to privatise the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP), the Union government here on Wednesday in its counter-affidavit in the Andhra Pradesh High Court, stated that the courts cannot interfere in the policy matters of the government.

Amaravati: Taking a firm view of its position to privatise the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP), the Union government here on Wednesday in its counter-affidavit in the Andhra Pradesh High Court, stated that the courts cannot interfere in the policy matters of the government.

The Centre explained the powers vested with it in making such decisions and said "as such, the courts cannot interfere in such decisions. So, the court should dismiss all the petitions filed challenging the privatisation of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant".

It further argued that the decision to disinvest in the steel plant for 100 per cent privatisation was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on January 27 this year.

"The Centre has powers to take decisions pertaining to the economic issues of the country and the courts cannot interfere in these matters," it added.

"The CCEA comprises top policy makers like Prime Minister, finance minister, home minister, corporate affairs minister, steel minister and petroleum minister. Their decision is final," the Centre argued in addition.

Referring to the petitions filed against the privatisation, it recalled that there were Supreme Court judgments on the issue of withdrawal of investment adding that the process was being examined by experienced superiors. It alleged that the former CBI JD Lakshminarayana who filed the case had contested in the parliamentary elections and had a political motive in filing the petition against the privatisation of the Visakhapatnam steel plant to claim that it did not merit any hearing.

"As such, the courts cannot interfere in such decisions. So, the court should dismiss all the petitions filed challenging the privatisation of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant," it said.

The High Court had issued notices to the Centre over the petition against privatisation of steel plant. The court heard a petition filed by former CBI JD Lakshminarayana challenging the privatisation and issued notices to the Centre to file counterclaims. The AP government told the court that it had asked the Centre to reconsider the privatisation decision.

Ahead of his petition, Lakshminarayana had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue. He had stated in the letter that the Visakhapatnam steel plant was very special for AP people. With modern machine tools, the steel industry was world-class in every sense, he stated. He had also reminded the Prime Minister that the industry had generated Rs 43,700 crore in tax revenue for the government so far.

Eminent personalities had suggested to the Centre that instead of privatising the steel plant, it would be better if it were to be merged with the NMDC (National Mineral Development Corporation). Alternatively, the SAIL could be merged with the plant to form a huge conglomerate, they suggested. Allotment of iron ore mines to the profit making plant was also one of them.

Meanwhile, the steel plant employees agitating against the move vowed to continue their fight. The members of the Visakha Ukku Parirakshana Porata Samiti who are in New Delhi have already announced that they would protest at Jantar Mantar on August 2 and 3.

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