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"Setback" to Govt of India on cases of corruption in land allotment to Narmada dam oustees: NBA

By Our Representative
In a significant development, a two judge bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justice TS Thakur and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, has refused to entertain a Petition filed by the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) to transfer a seven year old public interest litigation (PIL) from the High Court of Madhya Pradesh to the Supreme Court. Chaired by the secretary, Union water resources ministry, NCA is the decision-making inter-state body with powers to take a final call on all major contentious issues related with the Narmada project, including raising of the dam.
The NCA had requested the Supreme Court to transfer the writ petition No 14765/2007, which was filed by the powerful anti-dam organisation Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), challenging massive corruption in the resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) of the Sardar Sarovar project affected families in Madhya Pradesh. Involving thousands of Narmada dam oustees, the NBA has alleged, on the basis of official reports, that huge funds were siphoned away by corrupt officials while offering cash in lieu of land to the oustees.
The NBA believes, offering cash instead of land is “illegal” and runs counter to the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) award on distribution of Narmada water to the four states – Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
The NCA had simultaneously sought transfer of an interim application by NBA, currently with the Madhya Pradesh High Court. The application has challenged the decision of the NCA, backed by the Narendra Modi government, dated June 12, 2014, allowing the Gujarat government to raise in Narmada dam’s height from 121.92 metres to the full reservoir level, 138.64 metres. 
The application had wanted the dam height should not be allowed to be raised till the Judicial Commission appointed by the High Court under Justice SS Jha (retired), which has been inquiring the corruption scandal for the last six years, submits its report to the High Court, and the High Curt issues directions on it.
“Refusing to transfer the NCA’s plea on corruption from the High Court to the Apex Court, the Division Bench said that the Madhya Pradesh High Court would continue to hear the corruption matter, but not the issue to raise of the height of Narmada dam”, an NBA statement said, adding, “With regard to the latter issue of raise in the height in the Narmada dam, the bench granted liberty to the NBA to approach the Supreme Court for suitable directions.”
The statement added, “The NBA will continue to raise the issue of corruption in the rehabilitation before the High Court and challenge the illegal move to raise the height of the dam, along with other issues of rehabilitation, before the Supreme Court as also other forums. There are to this day 2.5 lakh oustees yet to be rehabilitated and thousands of un-rehabilitated families under the present dam height of 121.92 metres itself, who have become a victim of corruption and State neglect.”
NBA leader Medha Patkar, petition in person, and Advocate Sanjay Parikh appeared for the respondents NBA. Mukul Rohtgi, Attorney General of India, and Syed Naqvi, advocate, appeared for the Union of India and the NCA.

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