The Supreme Court today has restored the appeal filed by the Mandakini Badh Prabhavit Samiti before the National Green Tribunal, which was previously dismissed by NGT, due to non-payment of court fees, in their appeal seeking enhanced compensation to victims whose houses were washed away in the 2013 Uttarakhand Floods (Disaster).
A three-judge bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Hrishikesh Roy and C.T. Ravikumar directed the matter to be remitted back to the NGT for fresh consideration on merits. It admitted the appeal and directed the Original Application before the NGT to be revived.
It recorded that in the interest of justice, by way of indulgence and that the appellant is representing the persons affected by flood and is espousing the cause of the claimants, it condoned the delay in depositing court fee. The Bench also held that they are not expressing any opinion on merits of the case.
Activities of L&T Uttaranchal Hydropower Ltd resulted in washing away of houses of victims, claimed their plea
The petitioner association has claimed that activities of the L&T Uttaranchal Hydropower Ltd have resulted in washing away of the houses of the victims in Village Chandrapuri, Bhatwari Sunar, Butol and Gabni located in district Rudraprayag and loss to the property.
The NGT had dismissed their original application as the requisite court fee had not been paid. The Supreme Court had earlier directed the requisite court fee to be deposited to the Registry of the Supreme Court.
K.V. Viswanathan, appearing for L&T Uttaranchal Hydropower Ltd, tried to place before the court that the matter is not an environmental issue and the claimants only want to extract money. Sanat Kumar, AAG for Uttarakhand, submitted that the State was not concerned with the matter. The Supreme Court bench remarked that it is for the Tribunal to decide.
Appeal against NGT dismissal of application
This appeal challenged the order of the NGT, Principal Bench which had vide order dated 26.09.2019 dismissed the application of the Mandakini Badh Prabhavit Samiti for want of court fee.
It was contended before the NGT that the activities of L&T Uttaranchal Hydropower Ltd. has resulted in washing away of the houses of victims in Rudraprayag district. L&T UHL was implementing a 99 MW run-of-the-river Singoli-Bhatwari Hydroelectric project on Mandakini River in the Garhwal region of Rudraprayag District, Uttarakhand.
On the last date of hearing on August 27, the Supreme Court had deferred the matter with the direction that no request for further adjournment will be entertained.
The Uttarakhand flash flood of 2013
During the flood event on June 16-17, 2013, the barrage of the project was blocked by boulders and led to accumulation of sediments and waters behind the barrage. Then the barrage broke on the right side and the accumulated water suddenly came out of the broken opening. The flood waters then moved like a snake, hitting the left and right banks downstream of the barrage destroying the houses located thereon.
State Government vide order 27.06.2013 granted relief aid of Rs 2 lakh for the hardship caused by the flood victims on account of loss incurred by them. Further, vide order dated 11.10.2013, Rs 5 lakh was paid under the ‘Owner Driven Construction for Houses’ policy which covered all those houses which were fully damaged in the flood. The members of the applicant association (before NGT) are the beneficiaries of the scheme and have received the above-mentioned amounts under the same.
Before the NGT, the applicant submits that the amount granted was not based on proper evaluation of the damage caused to the houses considering the actual value of the houses in 2013.
CASE NAME- MANDAKINI BADH PRABHAVIT SAMITI vs. L AND T UTTARANCHAL HYDROPOWER LTD.
Diary No.- 17026 – 2020
Bench: Hon’ble Mr. Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Hon’ble Mr. Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Hon’ble Mr. Justice C.T. Ravikumar