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Friday, July 23, 1999

Arundhati's remark may invite SC action

PRESS TRUST OF INDIA  
NEW DELHI, JULY 22: Irked by the critical statements made by Narmada Bachao Andolan, an NGO, and Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy on a Supreme Court ruling on Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), the Supreme Court today sought assistance from a senior advocate on the course of action against them.

The Gujarat Government presented before a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice A S Anand, Justice S P Bharucha and Justice B N Kirpal, several statements of NBA and the book The Greater Common Good written by Roy, a portion of which dealt with the fallacy of court ruling permitting raising of the height of the dam from 80 to 85 metres.

The bench after perusing the material and a portion of Roy's book said ``prima facie it appears that there is an attempt to undermine the dignity of the court and influence the course of justice.''

``However, before proceeding any further with the case, we have decided to appoint an amicus curiae who will advise the court as to what action should be taken in thematter as well as in the (main) petition," the bench said.

The bench appointed Supreme Court bar association president K K Venugopal as the amicus and posted the matter for further hearing on July 29.

NBA had filed a petition challenging the construction of the dam alleging that a large number of oustees had not been rehabilitated so far by the Gujarat Government.

Counsel for NBA, senior advocate Shanti Bhushan, said the Gujarat Government had paid little attention to the plight of the oustees.

He contended that the tribunal's award on Narmada project, which envisaged proper rehabilitation of all the persons whose land would be inundated by the water of the reservoir, had not yet been fully implemented by the state.

The NBA counsel said the oustees of the Sardar Sarovar Project has recently taken a decision to take `jal samadhi' (to voluntarily die by getting inundated) and the court should take notice of this.

The court made it clear that for the time being the issue was the statementsmade by petitioners ``to undermine the dignity of the court'' and the broader issues would also be taken care by the court.

The court had early this year allowed the Gujarat Government to raise the height of the dam from 80 to 85 metres but had categorically told the state government to take effective steps to rehabilitate the oustees.

It had also sought a report from the grievance redressal authority. The government stated that of the 2,837 complaints received by the GRA, 2,667 had been dealt with.

Counsel for the state government Harish Salve submitted that this would effectively dispel the fear of the petitioner that the GRA was not proceeding with the complaints expeditiously.

Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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