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Court panel to review Mullaperiyar dam

New Delhi, Feb 18 (IANS) The Supreme Court Thursday appointed former chief justice of India A.S. Anand as the chairperson of a techno-legal panel formed to examine the strength and capacity of the more than a century old Mullaperiyar dam in Kerala.

A five-judge constitution bench of Justice D.K. Jain, Justice B. Sudershan Reddy, Justice Mukundakam Sharma, Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice Deepak Verma named the former CJI after he agreed to take up the task of heading the five-member ‘Empowered Committee’ formed by the apex court.

While appointing the ex-CJI as the panel’s chairperson, the bench asked the two states, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, fighting a pitched legal battle over the Mullaperiyar dam, to nominate one technical expert each as members of the panel.

It also asked the central government to nominate two more neutral technical experts from its side, saying that those two experts must not be an interested party to the dispute or associated with the dispute at any point of time.

On the plea by counsel from the two states, the bench, however, specifically directed that no member from the Central Water Commission should be taken on the panel, which has been asked to submit its report in six months.

‘Apart from the legal and constitutional issues, it appears that the real concern of the state of Tamil Nadu relates to the potential problem where the level of water in the dam could not be raised to 142 ft,’ the bench said in its order.

‘The concern of the state of Kerala, on the other hand, appears to be relating to the safety of the dam,’ the bench added.

‘While Tamil Nadu has submitted that in the present suit, they seek an invalidation of the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2006, that seeks to override the Supreme Court judgment in the previous case, Kerala has submitted that there are genuine concerns as to the safety of this dam, and that they have also offered to build a new dam at their cost which will ensure that there is no fall in the water drawn by Tamil Nadu and that their law is valid.’

The apex court gave Tamil Nadu, Kerala and the central government the liberty to raise all these issues before the committee.

The bench made it clear that after the receipt of the report, it would consider the legal and constitutional issues, including the validity of the Kerala law, and directed the matter to be listed for further directions after six months.

The apex court in an earlier ruling on the Mullaperiyar dam had allowed Tamil Nadu to raise the water level of the dam to a height of 142 ft, but Kerala then enacted a law to negate the apex court ruling, saying that the over a century-old dam has outlived its utility and its continued existence on its territory with the raised water level would be a consistent threat to lakhs of people in the state.

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