Tamil Nadu Thursday told the Supreme Court that its dispute with Kerala on the Mullaperiyar Dam was not an interstate water dispute that needed resolution through a water tribunal.
Appearing for Tamil Nadu, senior counsel K. Parasaran told a five-judge constitution bench, headed by Justice D.K. Jain, that Kerala’s argument questioning the apex court’s power to adjudicate the row on the dam on the ground that it was a interstate water dispute was wrong.
Parasaran said the dispute is only limited to whether the century-old dam can withstand the water pressure up to a height of 142 feet, and therefore the apex court was entitled to hear the matter. The bench also included Justice B. Sudershan Reddy, Justice Mukundakam Sharma, Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice Deepak Verma.
He said Tamil Nadu is only challenging the Kerala legislation, which sought to negate the apex court judgment allowing Tamil Nadu to raise the water level to 142 ft, he said.
The constitution bench began hearing the interstate dispute between Tamil Nadu and Kerala since Tuesday.
On Nov 10 last year, a three-judge bench of Justice D.K. Jain, Justice M.K. Sharma and Justice R.M. Lodha, had referred the contentious dispute to the constitution bench, saying it had “substantive questions of constitutional law" involved in it.
This came after senior counsel K. Parasaran and Rajeev Dhawan for Kerala agreed that the matter involved issues of constitutional law.
The 113-year-old Mullaperiyar dam, located in Kerala’s Idukki district, is a bone of contention between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Kerala wanted the dam de-commissioned on the grounds that it has exceeded its life span and poses threat to the lives of millions of people in its periphery.
Tamil Nadu is opposed to any such move, saying the dam, despite being in Kerala, is under its control due to historical reasons.
The erstwhile kingdom of Travancore, now part of Kerala, had leased out 8,000 acres of its land in 1886 for 999 years to the then secretary of British India for construction of the dam, which was eventually commissioned in 1895.
The 1886 lease deed, known as the Periyar Lease Dead, was amended in 1970 to give Kerala an exclusive right of fishing in the Periyar water while Tamil Nadu was given an exclusive right to generate electricity from the dam on payment of Rs.12 to Rs.18 per kilo watt of generated power to Kerala.
Earlier, in 2007 the apex court had allowed Tamil Nadu to raise the water level in the dam from 136 feet to 142 feet.
Kerala, however, enacted a law, negating the Supreme Court judgment and restraining Tamil Nadu from raising the water level beyond 136 feet.
It further obtained an environmental clearance for constructing a new dam. This led to Tamil Nadu approaching the apex court challenging Kerala’s move.
–Indo-Asian News Service