Supreme Court accepts right to rehabilitation of Narmada canal affected

In an interim order passed today in the Special Leave Petition in appeal against the judgement of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh High Court in the case of Narmada Bachao Andolan, the Hon’ble Supreme Court today rejected the claim of the Government of Madhya Pradesh that the canal-affecetd families of Indira Sagar (ISP) and Omkareshwar (OSP) canals, being the ‘beneficiaries’, have no right to rehabilitation, while NBA asserted their rights for land as per the Rehabilitation Policy for Narmada Project affected families. Read more

A Bench of Hon’ble Chief Justice Shri K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice J.M. Panchal and Justice B.S Chouhan today considered only the ‘hardship’ cases defining them as families with 60% or more land affecetd or to be affecetd by the ISP and OSP canals. The Interim Order today directed the Government of Madhya
Pradesh to:

1.      Grant the right of land equivalent to the land lost to the canals for all hardship cases.
2.      The land should be cultivable and allotted in the command area as far as possible and in the vicinity of the affected village.
3.      The 60% and more lost by these hardship cases i.e. severely affected families should be valuated at the present market rate, in spite of the year in which those might have been acquired in the past.
4.      If there is no land available in the command area or not acceptable to the canal-affecetd families, land from the Land Bank of Madhya Pradesh should be offered, but only after making it cultivable.
5.      Grievances, if any shall be heard by the Grievance Redressal Authority for Narmada Basin Projects.

All of these are directed as interim measures, without prejudice to the rights and entitlements of the CAFs, under the Rehabilitation Policy.

The interim order for the first time acknowledges the rights of the canal-affecetd families (i.e. the category other than the submergence affecetd) in the Narmada dam projects which can be of much benefit and relevance for protecting and fighting for the rights of similar categories in other dams and

NBA appreciates the Court for taking cognizance of the severely affected families by the canal network granting land based rehabilitation and market value to some of them. NBA would also continue with the legal battle to save the just and rational judgment of the Madhya Pradesh High Court delivered by Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice Ajit Singh in November 2009 and assert all the rights of the affected, as already recognized in the Policy.

No data, no R&R Plans, No CAD Plans: How could canal work go on?
The Ministry of Environment and Forests today pleaded before the apex Court that the Devender Pandey Expert Committee that was asked to approve the Command Area Development Plans for the ISP and OSP has submitted its Third Report concluding that there are no full and adequate plans for both the projects and hence cannot be approved.

It may be noted that the MoEF has all the powers to issue a stop-work notice in this context of absolute non-compliance and its role is further endorsed by the interim order of the apex Court dated 25-02-2010 in the same case, since the stay on the canal work was lifted only for the ‘time – being’ and subject to the approval of the CAD Plans by the Pandey Committee and MoEF.

Arguing on the basis of the latest facts and official documents, Respondent-in-person Medha Patkar, pleading on behalf of Narmada Bachao Andolan and Advocate Sanjay Parikh brought to the court’s notice that the project-authorities do not have conclusive and reliable data on the total  and families to be affected by the entire canal network and how the State Government have been providing conflicting and incomplete figures to the High Court, the apex Court and the Narmada Control Authority. The same has also been
categorically concluded in the Minutes of the recently concluded 75th Meeting of the Resettlement and Rehabilitation Sub-Group of Narmada Control Authority held on April 16th at New Delhi.

The case of canal-affecetd was also pleaded by NBA on other important grounds including:

•       Already irrigated lands in the Narmada and Maan river bank villages which form almost 40% - 50% of the ISP and OSP command should be excluded.
•       There is no full data nor rehabilitation plan for the CAFs of OSP and ISP in which case, pushing land acquisition and excavation without the Plans would be ecologically most harmful and socially disastrous.

The arguments shall continue after the vacation. Advocate Sanjay Parikh and Smt. Medha Patkar pleased for NBA, the Respondents in the SLP. Senior Counsel Shri Andiyarunjina appeared for the Madhya Pradesh Government and Additional Solicitor General Shri Pareen Raval, with Advocate Harris Beeran  appeared for the MoEF.