Monday, October 3, 2022

Supreme Court resumes hearing on safety of Mullaperiyar Dam

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Today the three judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Khanwilkar resumed the hearing of the Mullaperiyar Dam matter the safety of which is the bone of contention between State of Tamil Nadu and State of Kerala. Sr. Adv., Mr. Jaideep Gupta appearing on behalf of the Respondent- State of Kerala had summarized the background of the matter yesterday while also laying down certain contentions.

Today, proceeding with the contentions, he reiterated his concern for safety of the dam while also drawing the attention of the court to the doctrine of res judicata in the process which is stopping him from challenging the review petition of 2006 that allowed the water level of the dam to 142 feet from 136 feet however, he opposed the State of TN’s approach that was further in favour of increasing the level to 152 feet.

Out of the whole lot of issues involved, the primary issue that was taken into consideration focused on the Rain Gauge Stations and the Structural stability of the Dam and other technical aspects.

The Counsel pleaded that an expert committee should look into these issues as the Supervisory committee has not looked into them.

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The counsel called for a fresh review of the structural safety of the dam and submitted that CWC had in its report mentioned periodic inspection of the dam every 10 years which is due in 2022.
Justice Khanwilkar then questioned the respondent if he would like to include new technical aspect in affidavit if any has been missed out.

In respect to this, the respondent called the attention of the court towards certain prospects that have been overlooked by the Supervisory Committee emphasising upon the instrumentation part of the dam as well as pointing out the incorrect measurement of seepage while relating it with other prospects like( treatment of upstream surface, periodic monitoring, geodetic reaffirmation, etc)

The court dwelling on its stance to take up the matter as inquisitorial and not adversarial insisted the parties to settle the long debated issue amicably and not to modify but to supplement the points to the effect that resolution has to exist as it is not one day affair as it impacts two states and a permanent solution has to be drawn.

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Senior Advocate Shekhar Naphade submitted that State of Tamil Nadu is in favour of retaining the dam. Second, some work should be carried out on the dam as a result of which the level of water can be raised to 152 ft, the original position. He opposed the contention that safety instructions related to the dam were not taken into consideration and denied all charges that the Committee was biased towards Tamil Nadu. He also asserted that the main intention of the State is to ascertain what is to be done in the long run.

Counsel appearing on behalf of ASG, Ms. Aishwarya Bhati representing the Supervisory Committee, submitted that the Committee’s recommendations were not complied with by both the states. No inputs are being given and directions are not complied with. She highlighted the issue that even though the supervisory committee has been given powers of inspection, etc. the directions passed by the Committee are not adhered to.
Then Justice Khanwilkar opined that in this case the matter should be communicated to the Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu and Kerala by the Committee and that deadline in this respect shall be set and in case of non-compliance, it shall be treated as the contempt of Court.

Overall the court was of the opinion that the Supervisory Committee should be strengthened, time line should be fixed for every activity and the parties should comply with the recommendations and directions.

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The parties then pleaded to keep the matter on Tuesday as the entire thing would require political sanctions.
Issue on the reconstruction of the dam was also put forward again by the Counsel for Kerala for which the court suggested that this issue as well as the disputes which may arise between both the states may be looked into by the Supervisory Committee.

Further, It can act as a dispute resolution body and consider the suggestions of the states and come to a conclusion. Therefore the court focused on enlarging the powers of the committee and strengthening it.

The court assured the parties that if required it will include the submissions made today in minutes of the order and asked the parties to come up with suggestions and come up with a road map in the next hearing.
No order was passed. Hearing of the matter to continue on Tuesday.

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