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The Hindu on : SC objects to Patkar's response

Online edition of India's National Newspaper on
Tuesday, April 24, 2001

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SC objects to Patkar's response

NEW DELHI, APRIL 23. The Supreme Court today adjourned till the first week of August the hearing on the petition seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against the Narmada Bachao Andolan leader, Ms. Medha Patkar, Booker prize winner, Ms. Arundhati Roy, and advocate Mr. Prashant Bhushan for staging a demonstration outside the court and raising slogans against its verdict in the Sardar Sarovar dam case.

Adjourning the hearing, Mr. Justice G.B. Pattanaik, heading a two-judge bench, observed that the allegations made against the contemnors in the petition might not turn out to be contemptuous but the tone and tenor of the averments made by them in their replies seemed to be objectionable. The judge said two options were open - one to drop the proceedings against them or to direct an inquiry into the allegations. Dispensing with the personal appearances of the contemnors, who were present in the court, till further orders, the court asked the Additional Solicitor- General, Mr. Altaf Ahmad, to assist the court in the matter.

Turning their attention to the petitioners, Mr. Justice Pattanaik said: ``If your allegations were found to be incorrect after inquiry, you could also be sent to jail.''

Earlier, senior counsel Mr. Shanti Bhushan, appearing for Ms. Medha Patkar, and former Law Minister, Mr. Ram Jethmalani, appearing for Mr. Prashant Bhushan, objected that the petition was full of defects should have been entertained by the registry of the court. The bench, which included Mr. Justice U.C. Banerjee, said it was not hearing arguments on the merits of the petition right now.

Ms. Arundhati Roy appeared in person without any assistance from a lawyer. The demonstration was held on December 13 last year in protest against the court's verdict dated October 18 permitting construction of Sardar Sarovar Dam as also raising up of its height.

In their separate replies to the petition, filed by Mr. J.R. Parashar and two other advocates, the alleged contemnors did not render any apologies for allegations levelled against them. They reiterated that it was within their constitutional rights to protest against any unreasonable judicial pronouncement.

Earlier, Ms. Patkar, accompanied by scores of dam- affected people from the valley, marched towards the apex court shouting slogans against it. Police detained around 200 people - mostly peasants and adivasis from the Narmada valley region of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh - about 100 metres from the court premises.

Ms. Patkar was later allowed to take eight persons, including social activist Swami Agnivesh, inside the premises. ``These people have travelled all the way to personally convey their despair and anguish at the court's decision to allow the construction of Sardar Sarovar,'' Ms. Patkar said. ``They have not yet been resettled and will lose their land and homes in the monsoon to the rising waters of the reservoir.''


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