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Team Careers360|Dec 3, 2023
NEW DELHI: The Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court has directed the union and Uttar Pradesh governments to file their response within four weeks on a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking stay of activities by several authorities on the land of Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Avadh University, Ayodhya. A significant portion of university land was acquired by the state government administration to handover to Airport Authority of India (AAI) for the upcoming Ayodhya airport without its consent, petitioner and alumnus Om Prakash Singh has informed the court.
Following the Supreme Court verdict on Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, the UP government is building an international airport in the district. Avadh University is giving up about a quarter of its land to AAI for the Maryada Purushottam Shriram Airport.
In its order on May 24, 2022, a bench of Justice DK Upadhyaya and Justice Subhash Vidyarthi asked respondents to file their counter affidavits within a period of four weeks. “A two week's time thereafter shall be available to the learned counsel for the petitioner to file the rejoinder affidavit,” the court said in its order. The matter will now be heard in the second week of July 2022. The respondents include Union of India, AAI, UP government, Ayodhya district administration, and Dr RML Avadh University administration.
Singh, president of the Avadh University Alumni Association, in his PIL said that he was espousing the cause of the university. “As president of the university's alumni association, I have an emotional connection with it. I want to save the university because it plays an important role in the development of the nation,” he told Careers360.
“The current dispensation is behaving like Britishers and attacking the educational institutions. University administration did not come forward to save its land from government’s acquisition because [they] are on the verge of facing action from Governor and Chancellor Anandiben Patel’s office for invalid faculty appointments. To save themselves from any adverse action, they are standing with the government's decision,” he alleged.
Advocates for the petitioner, Paritosh Shukla and Sukh Deo Singh argued that even for utilising the land which stands vested in the university “the requisite permission or consent has not been sought from the university but from the higher education department of the state government”.
“Our petition is seeking the court's direction to authorities to return university’s land or give proper compensation…. We are also requesting that the airport must be constructed at a suitable distance from the university campus. Section 21 of the UP State Universities Act 1973 says that the university's executive council is authorised for matters related to land. The acquisition of land by the state government has been done on the recommendation of its higher education department and hence violated the law. We apprised the court about the problems[with imparting education] that can arise with the coming up of the airport near the university,” Shukla said.
Section 21 of Uttar Pradesh State Universities Act defines the powers and duties of the executive councils of universities. The power and duties also include “to hold and control the property and funds of the university”
“Drawing our attention to Section 21 of the State Universities Act, 1973 it has been stated by the learned counsel for the petitioner that in respect of the property of any State University, it is the State Executive Council of the University concerned which is empowered to hold the property,” court stated in its order.
In a letter dated September 2, 2021, the state government informed the AAI that the Uttar Pradesh cabinet approved the proposal for free transfer of 3,900 hectares of Avadh University’s land and buildings on it by the higher education department to AAI for Ayodhya airport.
A meeting of the executive council was held on September 29, 2021 in the university premises in hybrid mode. The Vice-Chancellor and registrar of the university were among the 13 members to attend. The minutes of the meeting stated: “Executive council discussed the residential, academic and administrative problems which can be caused after acquisition of university’s properties. Later, it was decided in unison that the council will apprise the UP government and governor’s office. It was also decided that the council will seek proper compensation [for] properties and will seek the same measurement of land at another place.”
Vijendu Chaturvedi from the media cell of Avadh University said that he is “unaware” whether the university received any monetary compensation.
“We have sent letters to the government administration requesting land at another place in compensation for the land taken from the university's campus. We have not received any response from the administration yet. Only EC members can confirm whether they had given the permission for acquisition of land or not,” he said.
Members of Avadh University’s executive council did not respond to calls and text messages of Careers360. Meanwhile, teaching staff who were living in the teachers colony at the university premises have vacated their rooms and are now living in rented rooms in Ayodhya city. University had ordered them to vacate their rooms as it had handed over 25 acres out of the university's 113 acres land for construction of the airport.
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