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The Hindu on : Gujarat asked to file statement on dam oustees

Online edition of India's National Newspaper on
Thursday, August 26, 1999

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Gujarat asked to file statement on dam oustees

By T. Padmanabha Rao

NEW DELHI, AUG. 25. The Supreme Court today directed the State of Gujarat to file a detailed statement with relevant particulars in a tabular form on the steps and arrangements taken in regard to the rehabilitation of oustees of the `Sardar Sarovar Project' on the basis of three interim reports submitted by the `Grievances Redressal Authority' (GRA) headed by a retired High Court judge, Mr. Justice P.D. Desai.

The Bench comprising the Chief Justice, Dr. A.S. Anand, Mr. Justice S.P. Bharucha and Mr. Justice B.N. Kirpal in making this order expressed its concern on the relief and rehabilitation of oustees. The Bench added that it desired to be informed what had been achieved in this regard so far with particular reference to the desired rehabilitation of number of oustees, the action taken by the State Government on the `grievances' referred to it by the GRA and what remained to be done on the basis of the three interim reports of the GRA.

The Bench today also reserved its order on an interlocutory application (IA) from the State of Gujarat which complained of consistent and persistent approach on the part of the petitioner (Narmada Bachao Andolan) in ignoring the apex court's earlier directions passed from time to time, more particularly, in relation with publication of various matter in different newspapers, journals and other media touching upon ``the matter under consideration of the court'' (in the main NBA petition).

The State's application sought the court's suitable action against the persons associated with the petitioner (NBA) who had allegedly defied the orders of the court.

The Bench on July 22, after perusing the concerned statements and press releases by NBA - (petitioner in the main petition on the ``Sardar Sarovar project'') - and also certain statements in an article (touching on the Narmada Dam controversy vis-a-vis court's earlier interim orders) by Ms. Arundhati Roy, Booker- prize winner, published in an issue dated May 24 of `Outlook' magazine, as well as the Book ``The greater common good'' written by her - observed that `prima facie' it appeared that there was an attempt ``to undermine the dignity of the court and influence the course of Justice''.

The Bench in connection with the hearing of the Gujarat's application heard the arguments of Mr. K.K. Venugopal, senior counsel and `amicus curiae' in this matter and other senior counsel, namely Messers Harish Salve, Ashok Desai, K. Parasaran, T.R. Andhiarujina, P.P. Rao and Mr. Shanti Bhushan.

The court, in its orders made sometime in 1997 and 1998 directed that none of the parties to the litigation (main PIL petition) shall make any comment by any means whatsoever touching upon or concerning the merits of litigation pending before the Court ``save at its own risk of being punished for contempt of court''.

The `amicus curiae' during his submissions pleaded that the appropriate course to be followed by the Court against the NBA and its leader was not by way of punishing Ms. Medha Patkar and other organisers of the NBA by a jail sentence or fine, for `contempt'. But, on the other hand, the more appropriate course would be to remove the petitioner (NBA) from the array of parties as petitioner in the main PIL writ petition and to substitute any other petitioners in the very same batch of PIL petitions, to continue the main PIL proceedings with the existing pleadings from the present stage, the amicus curiae submitted.

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