News Brief

Tamil Nadu Vs Kerala On Mullaperiyar: All That Happened This Week In Supreme Court

Swarajya Staff

Apr 08, 2022, 03:55 PM | Updated 03:55 PM IST

Mullaperiyar Dam
Mullaperiyar Dam
  • The Mullaperiyar Dam row between Tamil Nadu and Kerala was back in the limelight. Here's what happened in the Supreme Court this week.
  • On 5 April 2022, the central government suggested to the Supreme Court to let the Mullaperiyar Dam supervisory committee continue for a year. By that time, the National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA) under the new Dam Safety Act will become fully functional.

    The Centre suggested that the chief secretaries of Tamil Nadu and Kerala to be made accountable in order to ensure that the decisions of the supervisory committee on the maintenance and safety of the dam are duly complied with by the two states.

    Once the NDSA is fully functional, the functions of the supervisory committee would be taken over by the authority and the committee could be dissolved.

    Supreme Court Order

    A bench led by Justice A M Khanwilkar gave Kerala and Tamil Nadu time till Thursday (7 April) to study the proposal made by the Centre in the note and respond to it.

    The Dam Safety Act of 2021 comprehensively provides for surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance to prevent disasters caused by dams. The act mandates setting up of two specialised bodies, National Committee on Dam Safety and the NDSA, to evolve policies, recommend regulations for dam safety standards and resolve disputes between states.

    Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been trading allegations against each other over the safety, operation and maintenance of the Mullaperiyar Dam. While Kerala claims the 126-year-old dam is unsafe, badly maintained and a threat to thousands of people living downstream, Tamil Nadu denies it. Kerala is pitching for a new dam in place of the existing one while Tamil Nadu, which operates and maintains the reservoir, argues that the dam is well-preserved and so strong that the water level could even be increased to 152 feet.

    Supreme Court On 7 April 2022

    A bench headed by Justice Khanwilkar is hearing pleas raising issues about the Mullaperiyar Dam.

    The bench on Thursday, (7 April) observed that immediate action is required for the safety of the dam and the supervisory committee will be strengthened to take steps that are required to be taken by the NDSA under the Dam Safety Act 2021.

    The apex court, asked both Kerala and Tamil Nadu not to go into the history and concentrate on the future of the dam, the bench also remarked that the supervisory committee will issue directions that will be complied with by both the states.

    On 5 April, the apex court had said the supervisory committee can be asked to carry out all the statutory functions until the NDSA is established.

    The counsel appearing on behalf of Kerala submitted that they have no issues with the court's suggestions that the supervisory committee may carry out the functions of national authority, subject to a timeline. He said that the state is suggesting that the chairman of the supervisory committee should be changed and a senior official should be appointed to head the committee.

    On the other hand, the counsel appearing for Tamil Nadu, said they have been obstructed in implementing measures which the apex court had permitted them to undertake in its 2006 and 2014 judgements.

    However, the bench observed the focus should be on strengthening the supervisory committee.

    The bench had asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Central Water Commission and the supervisory committee, about Kerala's proposal on changing the chairperson of the committee. After taking instructions, the ASG referred to the proposal given in the court earlier and said the court may allow the present chairman to continue.

    Kerala's counsel said they want a more senior person as chairperson of the committee. But the bench observed that it can constitute a new committee but it will take some time to acclimatise.

    It said safety is the complete prerogative of the supervisory committee and the court will not go into the question of the new dam for the time being. The order would be passed today (Friday), the bench observed.

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