SC orders status quo on land acquisition for Vedanta varsity

Counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for one of the petitioners against the project, contended that the state government began acquiring land for setting up a world-class university by a group, which does not have the experience of establishing even a primary school

New Delhi: The Supreme Court (SC) today ordered the Orissa government to maintain status quo on acquisition of 6,000 hectares of land for setting up an international university by UK-based Vedanta group in the holy city of Puri, reports PTI.

Admitting a bunch of cross-appeals, a bench of justices DK Jain and HL Dattu asked the state government to maintain status quo on the process to acquire the land.

Earlier, two different benches of the apex court had refused to hear the cross-appeals saying that one or the other judges had been linked to the adjudication of the issue before.

The state government and the Anil Agarwal Foundation, which promotes the project, appealed against a decision of the Orissa High Court which citing 17 reasons held that land acquisition procedures for the proposed Vedanta University project were illegal.

The high court had also directed Vedanta to return the land to its various owners.

Appearing for one of over half a dozen petitioners against the project, counsel Prashant Bhushan contended that the state government began acquiring land for setting up of a world-class university by a group, which does not have the experience of establishing even a primary school.

He also contended that Land Acquisition Company Rules, 1963, had not been properly followed by the state government.

The high court had given its verdict on two public interest lawsuits and six individual petitions, challenging the state government’s notification on the land acquisition procedures.

Another petitioner opposing the project contended that the proposed multi-disciplinary university project would cause extreme debilitating impact on the eco-system as well as the local bio-diversity.

Yet another petitioner, who is opposing the project, is Congress leader Umaballav Rath. He had earlier filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the high court challenging the varsity project on the ground that it was envisaged on 500 acres of the temple land.

The petitioners also pointed out that the proposed site for the university was close to Balukhand Konark Black Buck Sanctuary and a river.

The petitioners had also questioned the status of the company saying it was not properly formed as per the Company’s Act.

The status quo was ordered by the bench of justices of Mr Jain and Mr Dattu. Earlier, an apex court bench of justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly recused itself from adjudicating the issue on 21st January.

Nearly a fortnight before that on 5th January, another bench of justices RV Raveendran and AK Patnaik withdrew from the case.

The bench of justices Singhvi and Ganguly withdrew from the case as Justice Ganguly had dealt with it earlier as the chief justice of the Orissa High Court.

The bench of justices Mr Raveendran and Mr Patnaik refused to hear the issue to avoid any conflict of interest as Justice Patnaik hailed from Orissa.


Bank of Baroda Q3 profit rises 28.39% at Rs1,068.88 crore

The bank’s total income grew to Rs6,342.30 in the period under review from Rs4,836.62 crore in the year-ago period

Mumbai: State-run Bank of Baroda today reported 28.39% growth at Rs1,068.88 crore in stand-alone profit for the third quarter ended 31 December 2010, up from Rs832.49 crore in the same period last fiscal, reports PTI.

The total income grew to Rs6,342.30 in the period under review from Rs4,836.62 crore in the year-ago period, the lender said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).

Shares of Bank of Baroda were trading at Rs 834.50 apiece, down 1.15% from its last closing, in post-noon trade on the BSE.


JSW Steel to again hike prices in February due to rising input cost

Steelmaker cites rising input costs and increased cost of production for this proposed move; the company will also pass on the hike to consumers

JSW Steel Limited, India's third-largest steel producer, will increase its product prices in the next month in the wake of rising input costs, a senior official of JSW Steel told Moneylife.

"We raised our product prices in the first week of January, while our spot market prices were also increased marginally. We will go for another price hike in February," said Jayant Acharya, director, commercial and marketing, JSW Steel.

However, Mr Acharya refused to disclose the quantum of the hike.

"We would be in a position to pass on the hike to our consumers," added Mr Acharya.

The company's consolidated profit for the third quarter ended December plunged by 32% to Rs2.92 billion compared with Rs4.30 billion during the same quarter of the previous year, due to higher input costs.

"Production cost in the quarter increased by around 30% as prices of raw materials, mainly coking coal, surged in the international market. However, prices of steel increased by around 13% and that hurt our net profit," said Seshagiri Rao, joint managing director, JSW Steel.

However, the Sajjan Jindal-led company managed to register growth in production and net sales. The company's crude steel production rose 11% to 1.64 million tonnes (MT), while net sales were up by 26% to Rs57.51 crore.

The company also plans to set up a 2.3MT/annum cold-rolling mill complex at its Vijaynagar plant (in Karnataka) to grab growing demand for flat products from the auto sector.

JSW Steel will invest Rs40.25 billion for this project. The steelmaker says that Rs13.50 billion will be raised through internal accruals, while Rs26.75 billion will accrue from debt.

The first phase of this project is scheduled to be completed by June 2014; the second phase is expected to be completed by June 2015.

JSW Steel will take technical assistance from Japan's steel major JFE for the project.

The company said its expansion programme to increase annual production capacity at Vijaynagar from 7.8MT to 11MT by March this year is "on schedule".

In the next fiscal, the company will require 7MT to meet higher production targets. Currently, it needs 5MT of coking coal, annually. However, the shipments of the commodity have been impacted due to the floods that have swamped Queensland, Australia.

"Not every mine and port has been hurt due to the floods. There are a few mines and ports that have not been affected. But yes, shipments have slowed down," said Mr Acharya.

JSW Steel imports around 100% of its coking coal requirements-most of it comes from Queensland.

Talking about the acquisition of Bellary Steel and Alloys Limited, Mr Rao said, "We have made payments and the matter is in court."

But Mr Acharya added, "It's a small technical matter, and we hope that it will be sorted out quickly."


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