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Land dispute: Supreme Court seeks Andhra's response on Odisha's contempt plea

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The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Andhra Pradesh government to respond to a plea by the Odisha government seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against its top officers

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Andhra Pradesh government to respond to a plea by the Odisha government seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against its top officers, following the notification of panchayat polls in three "disputed area" villages.

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.

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