Apex Court directs GRAs to discard 3000 Narmada cases by Feb 28
In a significant development with regard to the rehabilitation of thousands of families affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project on the Narmada River, the Supreme Court today issued a clear directive to the Grievance Redressal Authorities (GRAs) of the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat to dispose of all pending cases by 28th February, 2015.
Delivering the Order, the Division Bench of Justice Madan Lokur and Justice U.U. Lalit directed the States to submit compliance reports by 10th March and has listed the matter for further hearing on the 13th March, 2015.
In compliance with the previous order of the same Bench dated 9thJanuary, the Govt. of M.P filed an affidavit conducting an appointment of Jst. (Retd) A.K. Sharma; Jst. (Retd) S.S. Dwivedi, Jst. (Retd)Indrani Dutta, Jst. (Retd) I.S. Shrivastava and Jst. (Retd) G.D. Saxena – 5 Retired Judges of the High Court to work full time as GRA, M.P. Govt. of Guj has committed to appoint two Judges for grievance amends.
Govt. of Maharashtra has committed that the present GRA, Jst. Bagga would dedicate more time to hear all cases. It was also directed that the GRAs would be assisted by one Retd. Dist. Judge, 1 Addl. Collector and 2 Deputy Collectors in each state. The GRAs are also required to make filed visits, wherever necessary.
The Order was issued, by the Bench, while hearing applications filed by ousters from various affected villages and Narmada Bachao Andolan, challenging the recent decision of the Narmada Control Authority dated. 12th June, 2014 to raise the height of the dam from 121.92 mts to 138.68 mts as unconstitutional and in violation of the Narmada Tribunal’s Award, previous judgments of the Supreme Court, which mandated that raise in dam height shall only be after rehabilitation of all the oustees upto full height and its back water. The Applications also challenged the false claims that there would be no ‘additional submergence’.
Imploring for the oustees, Counsel Sanjay Parikh informed the Court that even as on date, the rehabilitation of thousands of oustees as per law, is pending, while the dam height has been increased and construction has commenced, leading to grave violation of the fundamental rights of the oustees. He informed the Court that the procedure for dam height raise laid down by the 2000 and 2005 judgements has been grossly violated by the Environment and Rehabilitation Sub Groups of the NCA and the NCA itself.
He also questioned the legality of the ongoing dam work, when it is already proved that the conditional clearance to raise the dam height from 110.64 to 121.92 mts has been violated and thousands of oustees, already thrown in the submergence zone are not yet rehabilitated and have been defrauded by a nexus of officials and agents, whose acts are being inquired into by a Judicial Commission in M.P.
Applicant-in-person, Medha Patkar submitted that there are already hundreds of orders of the GRAs, where compliance is pending and oustees have already faced impacts of unlawful submergence. She pointed out NCA’s Annual Report of 2013 which admitted more than 2300 families are yet to get land in M.P alone, more than 1000 adivasi oustees in Maharashtra and a few hundred in Gujarat are without land, civic amenities; thousands of landless, fish workers, potters are yet to be ensured alternative livelihood, as per law in M.P.
The Supreme has assured the applicants that it would give full hearing and deal with all substantive questions of legal assaults, including the legality of raise in dam height on 13th March, 2015.