The Supreme Court of India on 7 May 2014 quashed the law passed by Kerala Assembly on the Mullaperiyar dam. The Court also ruled that the water level of the dam can be raised to 142 feet. Apart from this, the Apex Court has also appointed a three-member Committee to supervise its safety aspects.
The quashed law is Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2006.
The committee will be headed by a representative from the Central Water Commission and will include one member each from the two states. It will also oversee the repair works.
This verdict of the Court came following a suit filed by Tamil Nadu in which the state questioned the law enacted by Kerala in 2006 to restrict the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam at 136 feet though the Supreme Court had permitted Tamil Nadu to raise the water level up to 142 feet.
This verdict of the court came eight months after the hearing was completed by a five member Constitutional Bench of Supreme Court led by Chief Justice RM Lodha. The bench said that the 2006 law framed by Kerala was unconstitutional as it violated the doctrine of separation of power.
Mullaperiyar dam is a masonry gravity dam on the Periyar River in Kerala. It is located 881 meter above mean sea level, on the Cardamom Hills of the Western Ghats in Thekkady district of Kerala, South India.
The increase in the water level of the dam had been demanded by Tamil Nadu to support its agricultural needs. This demand of the state was opposed by Kerala by pointing out concerns about the safety of the more-than-a-century-old lime-surkhi structure and demanded building a new dam at Mullaperiyar.
To go into the safety aspects of the dam, the Supreme Court Bench in 2010 appointed an empowered committee headed by former Chief Justice of India AS Anand. The report of the study was submitted by the committee in April 2012.
In its recommendation, the panel suggested that structurally and hydrologically the dam was safe and Tamil Nadu can raise the water level of the dam from 136 feet to 142 feet after carrying out certain repairs.
The constitutional bench comprised of
Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha, Justice H.L. Dattu, Justice Chandramauli Kr. Prasad, Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice M.Y. Eqbal.
The Case -State of Tamil Nadu (Plaintiff) versus State of Kerala & another (Defendants)
Reference to the 5-Judge Constitution Bench
Initially, the matter was heard by a three-Judge Bench but the case was referred to the Constitution Bench On 10 November 2009, as some of the issues framed in the suit involved decision on certain substantial questions of law concerning interpretation of the Constitution and in particular:
(i) Articles 3 and 4 read with Article 246 of the Constitution;
(ii) Article 131 read with Article 32 of the Constitution (in the context of res-judicata)
(iii) Proviso to Article 131 read with Articles 295 and 363 of the Constitution and the effect of the Constitution (26th Amendment) Act, 1971
(iv) The effect of decision of this Court in Mullaperiyar Environmental Protection Forum in the context of afore-referred constitutional provisions
Mullaperiyar dam: 1886 Lease Agreement
The dam was constructed under the Periyar Lake Lease Agreement dated 29 Octobers 1886 (“1886 Lease Agreement”) across Periyar river. The lease was of granted on lease for 999 years from 01 January 1886. Kereal defended itself by stating that the 1886 Lease Agreement for 999 years lapsed under the provisions of Section 7(1)(b) of the Indian Independence Act, 1947 (“Act of 1947”). From 1947 to 26 January 1950, the lease was continued as a temporary lease on annual basis. After 26 January 1950, even the temporary continuation of the lease came to an end. The possession of the land held and continued by the then Government of Madras and now Tamil Nadu, after 26.01.1950 has no juridical basis.
Who: Mullaperiyar dam
When: 7 May 2014