Andhra Pradesh is preparing to lay claim to assets worth thousands of crore after winning a pivotal victory against Telangana in the Supreme Court, potentially boosting the coffers of the cash-strapped state.
Telangana, which was created in 2014 after a bitter parting of ways with undivided Andhra Pradesh, is also preparing for another legal battle, which it hopes will deny its neighbour access to assets in 142 institutions established in the former Andhra Pradesh. "Based on the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court, we will now claim our share of 58% in all these 142 institutions," Cherukuri Kutumba Rao, the vice chairman of the Andhra Pradesh State Planning Board, told ET.
Last week, the Supreme Court overturned an order of the Hyderabad High Court and ruled that the division of assets of autonomous institutions between the states should be based on population, as argued by Andhra Pradesh, and not just on location, as contended by Telangana. "It is natural that when an existing state, if bifurcated to form two new states, there must be an equitable bifurcation of the assets and liabilities of the statutory bodies among the two successor states as well, to ensure welfare of the public at large residing within these territories," a two-judge bench of the top court wrote in its order.
Andhra Pradesh, ruled by Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party, and Telangana, whose chief minister is K Chandrasekhara Rao of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), have been at loggerheads ever since the southern states were bifurcated in June 2014. There have been bitter disputes between them over issues ranging from sharing of water to repayment of bonds issued by the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. This dispute over assets is an especially important one because of the amount of money involved.
A top Andhra Pradesh bureaucrat assigned to evaluate the assets and liabilities of these 142 institutions said these included land, buildings and bank deposits, most of which is located in Hyderabad, the joint capital until 2024. "Initial estimates indicate that these assets and bank deposits could be worth upwards of Rs 30,000 crore," he said, requesting anonymity.
The Supreme Court ruling came in a case pertaining to the division of cash deposits belonging to the Andhra Pradesh State Council of Higher Education. In what is now being described as 'ill-informed advice', Telangana authorities had compelled banks to freeze the accounts of the higher education council in Hyderabad.
Andhra Pradesh moved the Hyderabad High Court against the decision and lost, after which it moved the Supreme Court. The apex court ruled that the Telangana government cannot claim absolute rights over state-owned institutions merely because these were located in its geography, and directed Telangana to share the assets of the council with Andhra Pradesh in the ratio of population, being 58:42.
Admitting that the Supreme Court's judgment had come as a "major shocker" to the Telangana government, a senior bureaucrat who did not want to be identified, said civil servants have been advised to weigh options to challenge the apex court's directives. And also prepare to counter any moves of the Andhra Pradesh government staking claim over other Xth schedule institutions," this person said, referring to bodies whose status is still under resolution.