Sunday, August 10, 2014

Fresh directions on Narmada dam oustees' corruption case: MP high court refuses to hear Gujarat petition

By Our Representative
The Madhya Pradesh High Court has said that it may have to “proceed against” those state officials who have failed to comply by the Justice Jha Commission of Inquiry into large-scale corruption in the payment of cash in lieu of land acquired from thousands of Narmada dam oustees. It simultaneously dismissed the petition filed by the Gujarat government to not to allow the outees’ corruption case come in the way of raising the Narmada dam from 121.92 metres, where it is stationary today, to the full reservoir level (FRL) of 138.64 metres, saying it would not hear it, as the matter is pending with the Supreme Court.
Calling it a “significant order”, the anti-dam Naramda Bachao Andolan (NBA) said in a statement, a bench consisting of chief justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court (Jabalpur principal seat) AM Khanwilkar and Justice KK Trivedi said the state government has failed to look into various directions by the Justice Jha Commission, appointed by the court in 2008. In particular, the “state government has failed to provide suitable assistance of police officers, revenue officers and PWD engineers to the commission”. Asking it do it, the bench added, it may consider issuing “appropriate directions including the option of proceeding against the authorities who have failed to comply with the directions”.
The NBA, which had appeared through its leader Medha Patkar, said, “This order assumes significance in the light of the fact that the High Court had on numerous occasions in the past has issued stern orders to the state government to provide full-time officers, staff, finances and other facilities to the commission to be able to effectively carry out the herculean task of inquiry into thousands of land registries alleged to be fake, examination of thousands of witnesses, assessment of the resettlement sites, disbursement of livelihood grants, inquiry into irregularities in the house plot allotments, etc.”
The NBA said, “The Supreme Court has repeatedly endorsed and strengthened the power of the High Court and the Justice Jha Commission to proceed on the corruption issue. The latest order of the Apex Court dated August 2, 2014 emphasized that corruption cases could continue in accordance with law before the High Court although the issue of dam height would have to be agitated before the Supreme Court. This order was in the light of the petition by the Narmada Control Authority, responsible for taking all decisions on the Narmada project.”
“The High Court also issued notices to the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) and the NCA requiring mandatory scrutiny by the Justice Jha Commission of all cases of disbursement of cash compensation to the oustees. The commission had complained to the court in its latest report of July 1, 2014 that the NVDA has taken back files for scrutiny from the Commission my referring to certain other orders”, the NBA said, and welcomed the High Court’s rejection of the plea of Gujarat to intervene in the ongoing corruption PIL, since the issue of raise in dam height is to be agitated before the Supreme Court.”

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