Sunday, February 14, 2016

Jha commission on corruption in Narmada dam oustees' rehab: MP govt stance "delays" release of report

By Our Representative
Is the Madhya Pradesh government jittery over the findings of the SS Jha Commission, looking into embezzlement of funds meant for the rehabilitation of the Narmada dam oustees? It would seem so, looking into the stance it took in the High Court on releasing the report.
In its application to the Madhya Pradesh High Court, the states government has demanded that the Jha Commission report should not be released but first handed over to it for being laid before the legislative assembly of the Madhya Pradesh, claiming its “mandatory” right under Section 3 of Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952 (CIA).
Claiming to represent Narmada oustees, the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), however, has strongly disputed the claim. It has said that the notification to appoint the commission is in compliance of the High Court’s order, which “never directed commission to be appointed under the particular section and the Act.”
The commission was appointed by a 2008 High Court order. The High Court bench of Chief Justice AK Khanwilkar and Justice Sanjay Yadav heard the application by the state government submitted on January 21, 2016, pertaining to what NBA said in a communiqué were “legal issues” related to the release of the Jha Commission report.

Seven year investigation

The report is based on seven-years-long investigation, particularly looking into the corruption in the rehabilitation of the Narmada dam oustees.
Pointing out that the commission appointed was by the High Court “under Article 226 of the Constitution”, the NBA says, the commission was meant to promote, facilitate, and assist the state, and monitoring rehabilitation of oustees, since corruption has “derailed the rehabilitation process”.
Looking into legal issues while hearing the plea, the Chief Justice reportedly noted that there was “no directive by the court in the judgment for the state government to appoint the Jha Commission under Section 3 of the Act.”
He added, “The state could appoint it under Section 11 of the same Act, as it was an enquiry initiated by the High Court and neither by the Government nor through a resolution by the legislature.”
Hence, says NBA, reporting on the High Court proceedings, “The notification of appointment dated October 8, 2008 was issued in compliance of the High Court’s order as well as section 3 of the Act.”
“The chief justice raised the query as to whether submission of the report to the legislature first and to get the State to place Action Taken Report on the floor of the Assembly within six months is mandatory and non-compliance would violate any rule or law related to the rights and powers of the legislature”, said NBA.
Based on this, it added, “The High Court directed both the parties to file a response on the settled legal position on this issue”, with the Chief Justice saying, the matter “has become complex due to the notification that was not challenged by anyone.”
Senior NBA leader Medha Patkar appeared in the High Court as party person, while RN Singh and Arpan Pawar appeared in the High Court for the state government. The next hearing on the matter has been fixed for February 16,2015.

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