Supreme Court hears Pleas of Project Affected Families: Sardar Sarovar

After passing an interim order directing that the four chief ministers meet to resolve the acute crisis caused by imminent submergence, the Supreme Court today heard the Writ Petition under Article 32 of the Constitution, filed by the Project Affected Families (PAFs) in Madhya Pradesh. The Petitioners have averred that the filling of the Sardar Sarovar Reservoir was illegal and in violation of law, State policies and the judgements of the Court.

Image result for supreme court of india
Image Courtesy:

The States of Gujarat and Maharashtra, in addition to the State of Madhya Pradesh, and the inter-State body of Narmada Control Authority, were impleaded through an interim order passed by Justice Ramana and Justice Ajay Rastogi on the September 18, 2019.
The affidavits in reply filed by the Union of India and the Narmada Control Authority have rejected, among others, the plea for reducing the water level in the Sardar Sarovar to 122m by keeping the gates open. The affidavits have also claimed that the Narmada Control Authority and its various subgroups, for Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) as well as environment, have already granted all the requisite permissions for filling of the reservoir to FRL in 2017 itself.
The State of Gujarat has also contended that the Supreme Court’s order of February, 8, 2017, had directed all the PAFs to vacate the villages by  July 31, 2017 and that this should have been complied with. 
The Petitioners, on the other hand, submitted that thousands of families, as indicated in the letter by the Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh dated May 27, 2019, have been residing in 76 villages, and their R&R remains pending.  The said letter stated that about 3000 applications by the claimants are pending, for the land entitlement or 60 lakh rupees package, granted by the Supreme Court itself in its 2017 order. It was also accepted that a number of tasks related to R&R remain pending and the civic amenities as per NWDTA & State policy, such as drinking water, roads, drainage and others, were not in place. 
Today, a Bench comprising of Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Krishna Murari heard the Senior Counsel for the Petitioners, Sanjay Parikhji, who pointed out the gravity of submergence affecting human life and livelihood and requested that on account of the fact that R&R has not been completed, the rise in water levels was not in accordance with law and therefore, it should be brought down so that human sufferings are lessened.
Senior counsel for the M.P. government, Kapil Sibal sought time to file an affidavit pointing out the status of R&R. He also asserted that the impact of submergence is much more severe than what has been presented. Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General, submitted on behalf of the Union and NCA that water level in reservoir has been raised as per the procedure in the award. 
The Court, after hearing all the parties, directed the State of Madhya Pradesh to file an affidavit by September 30 and fixed the matter for hearing on 1st October. The Court also drew attention of the Solicitor General to the provision in NWDTA regarding a Review Committee meeting suggested in the interim order and observed that a decision should be taken in the meanwhile. It may be pointed out that the Review Committee comprises of the Chief Ministers of the 4 States- Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan as members, chaired by the Minister for Water Resources of the Union of India. 
The present crisis and controversy has arisen because the State of Gujarat wanted to increase the water level to 138.68 m in spite of State of Madhya Pradesh resisting it on the ground that the pending rehabilitation, submergence cannot be done and the R&R of thousands of families still pending. Because of the rise in water level in Sardar Sarovar, 176 villages have been submerged severely impacting their life and livelihood- islands/tapoos have been created, roads have been submerged and communication is severely affected.  
Related Articles:
1.      Four CMs must Meet, resolve contentious rehabilitation issue, on Narmada: SC
2.       Narmada valley: SC notice to Gujarat, MP, M’rashtra on submergence sans rehabilitation



Related Articles