In a brief setback to Union Textile Minister, Smriti Irani, the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court on Thursday stayed the notice by the Amethi district administration asking to vacate the land under the possession of the the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust for running a vocational training centre.
The court, according to news agency UNI, passed an interim order allowing the Vocational Training Centre at Jais to continue its activities.
On 22 April last month, the Amethi district administration had written to the Trust to vacate the land at Jais within a month.
However, the division bench of Allahabad High Court comprising Justice SN Shukla and SK Singh stayed that order on Thursday.
The court has fixed the next hearing date in mid-July. The bench, however, made it clear that the district administration must not interfere into the matter until then.
The Trust, for its part, has defended the existence of the vocational centre arguing that it’s been providing vocational training for 15 years ‘transforming the lives of more than 15 lakh women by empowering them with livelihood opportunities.’
Irani had contested from Amethi against Rahul Gandhi during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections unsuccessfully. During her campaign, she had accused the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust of using the land.
The district administration had swung into action barely a month after the BJP won a majority in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls alleging that the land was being used allegedly without proper authorisation.
“The land (about 10,000 square feet) in Jais had been earmarked for various activities of the state government like community health centres, schools and other community facilities. But, the Trust was using it for giving training to local women,” Sub Divisional Magistrate, Tiloi tehsil, Ashok Shukla had said.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi is the chairperson of the Trust and party Vice President Rahul Gandhi, who represents Amethi in Lok Sabha, is one of the trustees.
A senior official of Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojna had said that the land was allotted to Manuj Kalyan Kendra.
“We are running the programme jointly for the last 13 years,” he had said, requesting anonymity.
The Congress party had accused Irani of witch-hunt claiming that she was out there to avenge her electoral defeats using favourable state government’s machinery.
The land was earmarked in 1982 for vocational training for women by the then district magistrate.
Raebareli is the parliamentary constituency of Sonia Gandhi and the district Congress leaders say the land was given to Thakur Das Trust in 1984.