Jabalpur High Court declines interim relief to MP state government

A Division Bench of Justice R.C. Lahoti and Justice Sanjay Yadav of the Jabalpur High Court today, passed an Order declining to grant interim relief to the Government of Madhya Pradesh (GoMP) on an application filed by it, seeking modification of the Order of the High Court dated 12-11-2009 in the public interest writ petition filed by Narmada Bachao Andolan on crores of rupees corruption in the rehabilitation of the Sardar Sarovar Project affected families. By the Order of 12-11-2009, the Court had directed that all requisitions and funds for the Justice Jha Commission of Inquiry shall be placed with the Registrar General of the High Court and all grants by the State will also be routed through him. Read more

The GoMP filed an application, taking objection to this Order on false and fictitious grounds that such routing would cause ‘greater delays’ in the disbursal of funds to the Commission and would create complications in the audit and accounts process of the Court. They had also challenged the directive as being inconsistent with the Commission of Inquiry Act.

Medha Patkar, appearing for the Respondent (Narmada Bachao Andolan) pleaded that the application filed by the GoMP is totally misleading and baseless. She briefly placed before the Court the history of violation by the state government in notifying and grating funds, facilities and staff to the Commission from the date of the High Court’s Order appointing the Commission (21-08-2008). It was only after a series of applications were filed before the High Court by NBA and upon the Courts’ intervention that the Commission became functional, at least to an extent.

Ms. Patkar argued that the High Court’s Orders on routing the funds, which were issued by invoking its inherently wide powers under Article 226 are absolutely rational and just, since the Government has been the actual cause of deliberate delay in the disbursal of funds to the Commission. In fact as late as in January, the State Government has imposed a restriction on the Commission with respect to expenses on purchase of equipments and other infrastructure necessary for the inquiry. This itself reveals the Government’s intentions,
as far as its claims of ‘allowing the Commission to function smoothly’ are concerned. Further, the GoMP has challenged the Commission itself by filing a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court and has all the while exhibited its hostility towards any independent inquiry in the massive corruption in the R&R process, affecting the very right to life of thousands of oustees.

It cannot be expected anymore that the Government has the political will to allow the Commission to function effectively and it was taking cognizance of this fact and situation that the High Court issued its reasoned and fair orders. It was also pointed to the Court as to how the GoMP has committed contempt of the Court’s Orders. Despite the Order of 12-11-2009 clearly directing that all funding shall be routed through the Registrar General, the Government made some direct payment to the Commission in January 2010. Ms. Patkar also pointed out, with latest information, as to how the Commission’s work has been severely paralysed due to the lack of timely funds, office equipments and a team of special investigators (such as police, revenue and PWD officials), which is again a violation and contempt of the Court’s earlier

Upon hearing the parties and recording the pleadings, Court observed that the High Court’s Orders were indeed reasonable and need not be modified. However, the Bench directed the GoMP to file its response to the detailed Reply Affidavit filed by NBA.

Court also declines interim relief on Intervention Application:

The Court also briefly heard an Application for Intervention filed by Mr. Gattulal and two others seeking a direction to the Jha Commission to allow the second instalment of Special Rehabilitation Grant due to them. Ms. Patkar pointed out to the Court that since all the policy matters are pending before the Supreme Court and all issues of corruption before the Jha Commission, the Court’s intervention, until such time that the Commission submits it Report would be inappropriate. She pointed out two Orders of the Supreme Court, one which had directed the state government to prove that the PAFs are actually being able to purchase land through cash compensation and another where in the Court had upheld the PAF’s right to approach the GRA or the Supreme Court itself in case of any grievance.

The Court recorded the submission of Ms. Patkar and directed counsel for the Intervenors to file their response to the Reply Affidavit filed by NBA within two weeks.

Both these applications will be heard on the 9th April, 2009 Senior Counsel Mr. Shekhar Bhargav pleaded for the Government of Madhya Pradesh along with Mr. Vivek Patwa. Mr. Syed Naqvi, along with Mr. Dharmendra Sharma appeared as Counsels for the Narmada Control Authority and Advocate R.N. Singh pleaded the case of the Intervenors.

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