February 24, 2021 3:30:21 am
In a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking preservation of Pratap Vilas palace and its surrounding area in Vadodara, advocate general Kamal Trivedi, representing the Union of India, submitted that the alternate plot of land at Waghodia where part of the proposed Rail University is expected to be housed, “is like a dream” with no finality on the acquisition of the land. Arguments were concluded on Tuesday and the division bench has reserved judgment.
Arguing that the palace “is not a public property as is understood in common parlance”, and is in fact a “Government of India property”, Trivedi continued opposing the plea.
The PIL moved by eight petitioners, including the Vadodara-based Heritage Trust, submitted that the 106-year-old Pratap Vilas Palace, recognised as an ancient monument, which is housing the Railway Staff College since 1952, can maintain status quo instead of constructing a new building overlooking the palace that could ruin its heritage value. It was also proposed that instead of constructing a new building, the entire Rail varsity can be situated at Waghodia where a plot of land has already been acquired.
As per the advocate general, technicalities regarding the land remain to be resolved, thus making this proposition unviable. He also submitted that the land at Waghodia, if indeed finalised, would be meant for undergraduate students and another building will still be required for post-graduate students.
“The plot of 31 hectares in Waghodia, originally allotted to us (Government of India, Ministry of Railways) by the state government, is a land-locked land with no approach road… We also need extra land… as undergraduate courses of NRTI (National Rail and Transportation Institute)…. may be shifted here (at the proposed campus in Waghodia) and post-graduation may remain on NAIR (National Academy of Indian Railways) premises (at Pratap Vilas)…,” submitted Trivedi.
He also submitted that in 2018, a proposal was submitted for an approach road to the acquired land but nothing has been done so far. “We are likely to drop this because acquisition is not possible/feasible. We may have to forego even the 31 ha of plot…,” submitted Trivedi.
“…provided we get the entire land, today it is like a dream, which is not capable of being achieved…what is unlikely to be achieved, how can we shift there?,” added Trivedi, responding to the litigants’ argument that the entire university can be housed at Waghodia.
The involved parties are expected to submit their written arguments by February 26, following which the division bench headed by Chief Justice Vikram Nath is expected to pronounce its verdict.
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