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Friday, July 23, 1999


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Supreme Court objects to NBA statements

By T Padmanabha Rao

NEW DELHI, JULY 22. The Supreme Court, after perusing various statements and press releases by Narmada Bachao Andolan - (petitioner in the public interest petition relating to the Sardar Sarovar Project) - and also certain statements in an article (touching on the Narmada Dam controversy) by Ms. Arundhati Roy, Booker-prize winner, published in an issue dated May 24 of Outlook magazine, as well as the book For the greater common good written by her - observed that `prime facie' it appeared that there was an attempt ``to undermine the dignity of the court and influence the course of justice''. The bench comprising the Chief Justice, Dr. A.S. Anand, Mr. Justice S.P. Barucha and Mr. Justice B.N. Kirpal, before proceeding further in the matter, appointed Mr. K.K. Venugopal, Senor advocate and president, Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) as an amicus curiae to assist the court in regard to any action required to be taken in this matter as well as the main petition.

The bench made today's order on an interlucotary application from Gujarat State which brought the above material to the notice of the court. The State's application complained of ``a consistent and persistent approach on the part of the petitioner (Narmada Bachao Andolan) in ignoring apex court's directions passed from time to time, more particularly, in relation with publication of various matters in different newspapers, journals and other media touching upon the matter under consideration of the court'' (in the main PIL petition).

The application sought the court to issue suitable directions to the petitioners (Narmada Bachao Andolan) that no statements whatsoever concerning the subject-matter of litigation were made by any of the persons associated with the petitioner (namely, Narmada Bachao Andolan). The application also sought the court's suitable action against the persons associated with the petitioner who had allegedly defied the orders of the court.

Appearing for Narmada Bachao Andolan its counsel submitted that the `tribunal award' on Narmada dam required to be reviewed in view of the plight of the thousands of oustees.When the counsel submitted that the rehabilitation of the oustees was not being implemented suitably and effectively, the cousel appearing for Gujarat pleaded that the ``grievances redressal authority'' headed by a former High Court Chief Justice was proceeding expeditiously with its work.

When the NBA counsel contended that the question raised (in the States' application) was linked to the right of citizens to discuss on such topics as - `shortcomings of judicial process' vis-a-vis vital issues concerning the large sections of the people concerned, the bench orally observed that the `limited issue' was to the obligation of the parties concerned in a case before the court to comment on matters pending in the court keeping in view the court's earlier `restraint order' in this regard.

The bench fixed July 29 for further hearing of this matter.


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