| NBA Press Release
|| 27 July 2008
Case on Massive Corruption in SSP Rehabilitation - Final Hearing held in Jabalpur HC
62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Madhya Pradesh Govt. changes stance: A hurried Commission of Inquiry under a Retired District Judge declared
Chief Justice of M.P. expresses his disapproval of Commission constituted by the M.P. Govt.
Court reserves its Final Judgement
1. The Public Interest Litigation by Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA versus State of Madhya Pradesh, NVDA and other 5 Respondents) on massive and continuing corruption in the rehabilitation of Sardar Sarovar Project oustees and hundreds of fake land registries duping Project-Affected families came up for Final Hearing on the 22nd of July, 2008 before the Division Bench of Chief Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice Prakash Srivastava of the Jabalpur High Court.
2. The Court heard the Petitioners at length. Medha Patkar argued as a petitioner-in person and apprised the Court on various detail and violations. Shri Ravi Nandan Singh, Advocate-General pleaded for all the Respondents, except for the Narmada Control Authority, who was represented by Advocate, Sharma.
3. After one and a half hours' long arguments heard, the Chief Justice reserved the final judgement.
4. Narmada Bachao Andolan narrated the history of encashment of rehabilitation provisions and cash disbursement (Special Rehabilitation Package) in lieu of land and house plots and as a source of corruption. The hundreds of fake registries, manipulation of lists, to include ineligible persons and exclude eligible, fraud in distribution of house plots and construction work at rehabilitation sites were presented as the main bases of corruption with concrete data. The Policy amendment and dilution, against the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award (NWDTA) and the Supreme Court Judgements as well as fraudulent procedures in disbursing SRP for fake land registries was elaborated as leading to misappropriation of crores of rupees from the rehabilitation fund.
5. NBA alleged that incomplete and inadequate enquiry by the State is carried out only in one, out of the four aspects and officials of the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA), Revenue, higher officials of Registry were shielded and saved. The role of the Govt. officials, including officials of NVDA, Revenue, Registry and Police Departments, politicians and touts, advocates, agents and all others in cases of corruption, it was argued, should be investigated.
6. The Petitioners also said that the NVDA had written a letter to the NBA a few days before the hearing on the 22nd, asking for the list of PAFs whose complaints filed with the police were not acted upon, on the premise that 'appropriate action would be initiated at a higher level'. It is surprising and shocking that after all these months, the list (which in any case, was provided to the NVDA long ago) is not in place and without taking any action on the innumerable complaints filed by the PAFs, where police did not act, the NVDA exhibited remarkable swiftness in foisting hundreds of unsubstantiated cases and arresting dozens of SC/ST PAFs, without even conducting a proper preliminary investigation. The Bench took note of the same.
7. The Government of Madhya Pradesh, in its Reply and the latest Affidavit did not respond to three of the four modes of corruption. However, changing its initial position, reflected in the reply to the notice by the Court of 'No independent enquiry is necessary', issued a Notification constituting a Commission of Enquiry dated (18-07-2008) for investigating only 686 fake land registries under the Chairmanship of a Retired District Judge only. The Advocate General tried to convince the Court that the Commission would take care of the grievances. NBA pleaded this to be a weak Commission and a deliberate move to derail the judicial proceedings and the Court's decision.
8. It was also prayed that cash disbursements be suspended unless in strict compliance with the NWDTA, Supreme Court judgements and State policy in letter and spirit, investigation be carried out based on complaints already filed at various police stations by the affected persons. NBA alleged that no consultation with the Gram Sabhas, once before land acquisition and again before rehabilitation, as per the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, (PESA) Act, 1996 was ensured. Neither NVDA nor NCA, the central monitoring authority has protected the rights of the PAFs and hence their legal rehabilitation rights and right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution are violated. Full protection, to the complaining PAFs and the owners of land and others who are cheated in the deals was also sought.
9. Apparently very upset with the malafide and defensive move of the Respondents to constitute a Single-Member Commission with a retired District Judge to inquire into the fake registries, the CJ spoke his mind aloud that a Judicial Officer of high merit, integrity, honesty and calibre alone must head any such Commission in order to be able to comprehensively inquire into the scale and depth of this huge scam.
10. NBA had also impressed upon the Court the need for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate the massive scale of corruption or as an alternative, to appoint a Multi-Member Judicial Commission under the Chairpersonship of a Retired Supreme Court Judge or at least a High Court Judge assisted by an elaborate Special Investigation Team (SIT) for unearthing hidden evidence and all other attendant matters and carrying out an in-depth and comprehensive criminal investigation. The Court was also requested to spell out the elaborate terms of reference for the Commission. The Investigation/Inquiry Report, it was submitted must be placed before the Court within a period of 60 days and the State must book the guilty based on the same under appropriate provisions of law.
11. Having heard the Petitioner and Respondents at length, during various stages of the hearing and having perused through voluminous documentary evidence, the Court shall shortly pronounce its verdict. A quick direction for an appropriate and comprehensive investigation by a qualified and independent investigative agency and continued judicial monitoring of their Report will alone re-affirm the faith of the thousands of farmers, dalits, adivasis and all other displaced of the Narmada valley in the constitutional, democratic and judicial processes of this country.