Narmada (Sardar Sarovar) case heard before newly constituted Social Justice Bench of Supreme Court

: Medha Patkar Calls Constitution of Special Social Justice Bench a Welcome Move : 2.5 lakh oustees await justice and guarantee of no submergence without lawful rehabilitation : A Special Social Justice Bench constituted by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, heard the Narmada Bachao Andolan’s petition challenging the unlawful decision of the Narmada Control Authority in June, 2014 to raise the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam by 17 mts. It was the first case of the newly constituted Bench, presided by Honourable Justice M B Lokur and Honourable Justice U Lalit.

A Supreme Court notice on the constitution of the Bench, said, “in order to ensure that social justice, one of the ideals of the Indian Constitution are realized and these cases are given a specialized approach for early disposal so that the masses will realize the fruits of the rights provided to them by the constitutional text”. NBA’s petition is to challenge the unjust submergence faced by the 45,000 families in the Narmada valley – plains and hilly villages of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat due to increase in dam height.

NBA in its submission prayed that till today the rehabilitation of thousands of adivasis, farmers, fish workers, landless families is pending, and a massive 1,000 crore corruption scam is under judicial inquiry in Madhya Pradesh, numerous orders of the Grievance Redressal Authorities remain un-implemented in hundreds of cases, still the Narmada Control Authority has permitted a further raise in the dam height, by installation of piers, over head bridge and 17 mts high gates. The submission further added that the decision has been taken on a completely false and arbitrary ground that there would be no additional submergence!

NBA further added that this decision was completely illegal, unconstitutional and premised on unscientific calculations of the submergence levels. In the past years, thousands of oustees have already faced the severe impacts of submergence by water releases from upstream dams; flooding of thousands of acres of farm lands, hundreds of houses, fishing nets etc. Further dam work is bound to increase submergence of the thickly populated villages with prime agriculture, horticulture, shops, markets, schools, dispensaries panchayats, temples, mosques, ghats etc.

NBA also mentioned that the Former Prime Minister Shri Manmohan Singh had assured the Supreme Court in July, 2006 that the dam work will not be pushed ahead, without rehabilitation. In the past 8 years, the dam work was stopped and all matters are before the Courts, GRA and Commission of Inquiry, without whose permission, further construction cannot take place! However ignoring the Narmada Tribunal Award, Rehabilitation Polices, Action Plans and Judgements of the Supreme Court since 1991, 2000, 2002 and 2005, NDA Govt. has taken the present decision to complete the dam, by construction upto final height of 138.68 mts!

The Special Bench, heard the matter and appreciated the detailed submissions made by the Senior Counsel Advocate Sanjay Parikh and Medha Patkar, Petitioner in Person on behalf of project Oustees reperesented by Narmada Bachao Andolan. The petitioners argued that the case not only involved the life of lakhs of people but also grave questions of law, social and constitutional justice are involved and had implications for the right to life as well.

Honourable Justices after hearing the matter has now called for brief submissions to be made by December 25th by NBA, Union Government through Narmada Control Authority, and State Governments of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat as interested parties and have posted the matter for further hearing on January 9, 2015.

Reacting to the constitution of the special bench on Social Justice matters, Medha Patkar, said, “the move by Honourable Chief Justice of India is a welcome move and we have great hope from this bench. There are many cases of public interest which need speedy trial and have implications for millions of people in this country, these cases involve not only displacement but violation of rights of elderly, homeless, children, women, workers, dalits and adivasis living on the margins. We do hope that this bench will permit and make time for detailed submissions and ensure that the dream of social justice of Baba Saheb Ambedkar is achieved for antim jan as well.“

Rajendra Ravi, Madhuresh Kumar, Kanika Sharma

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