New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday said work on raising the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam would be stopped if states involved in the project do not rehabilitate displaced people.
But it didn’t order work to be stopped and will hear the matter again in a week.
"It is made clear to the state governments (involved in Sardar Sarovar Project) that if the relief and rehabilitation to the unfortunate oustees is not granted in true letter and spirit, this court will have no option but to stop the work of dam," a bench headed by Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal said.
The court said it would allow any "compromise" on the relief and rehabilitation of displaced people. The court was hearing a petition filed by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) to stop work to increase the height of the dam from 110 m. to 121.92 m.
Governments were asked to reply to NBA’s petition within a week. The bench, which also comprised Justcie K G Balakrishnan and Justice S B Sinha, asked parties in the dispute to maintain calm and the Centre to take steps to resolve the controversy.
"The matter deserves to be examined in a fair, reasonable, cool and calm atmosphere and not in charged atmosphere. We hope that they (lawyers of concerned parties) will persuade the concerned stake holders about this requirement as creation of such atmosphere will facilitate early disposal of the matter," the court said.
Modi, Patkar end fast
A few hours later, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi ended his fast in Ahmedabad and claimed the court ruling vindicated his stand. "Work on the Narmada project will continue with full steam while ensuring simultaneous rehabilitation work. The Sardar Sarovar project represents a major milestone for developed India and we will ensure that the work is not stopped," said Modi.
NBA leader Medha Patkar, who is protesting in Delhi against the dam, met her supporters at Jantar Mantar and broke her 20-day old hunger strike. Writer Arundhati Roy, who is campaigning against the dam, said the court decision was a defeat for all Indians.
Actor Aamir Khan, who joined the NBA’s protests last week, said the court "order is in favour of humanity. But the real victory will be when all the displaced people are rehabilitated."
"I am happy with the judgment because it will help establish the ground reality on this issue (rehabilitation) within three months," Khan said.
The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court it was committed to constructing the dam and rehabilitating people. It told the court that a new authority under the aegis of the Narmada Control Authority will be set up to review rehabilitation, which can be completed in three months.
The NBA filed the petition in February 2006 on behalf of 48 affected families, claiming that the Madhya Pradesh government’s rehabilitation process was a farce. At least 11 affected families were offered five to seven hectares of barren land, it alleged.
The NBA alleged that the Madhya Pradesh government has failed to rehabilitate displaced people and the court-appointed grievance redressal authority is of little use. The Madhya Pradesh government’s own action taken report says 300 families have not been rehabilitated, the NBA alleged.