MP HC continues to delay urgent matter, Narmada hearing postponed to August 21

The last day for the state to have completed rehabilitation was July 31, yet there has been no respite for those affected. State ruthlessness continues unabated

Photo Courtesy: NAPM
Photo Courtesy: NAPM

Ashlin Mathew

Courts are usually where the voiceless find some measure of fairness. But at times, they are not very prompt. The Narmada Bachao Aandolan’s case at the Indore High Court, which came up for hearing on Thursday, was postponed to August 21. The case had come up for hearing at Supreme Court on August 8 and the Apex Court refused to hear it until the High Court had passed its judgment.

“Justice Rohit Arya who is presiding over the case in Indore did not even hear us for a few minutes. Medha Patkar was not presented in court either,” said Pratyush Mishra, the senior advocate appearing on behalf of the interveners in the case. Interveners include 602 affected families.

“Whenever the case comes up for hearing at the High Court, government officials come armed with falsified information and photographs to reiterate that rehabilitation has been completed,” said Amit Kumar, who works with the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM).

Patkar, who was discharged on August 9 from a private hospital in Indore after her condition improved, was arrested on her way to Dhar. After she was discharged from the Bombay Hospital, Patkar said her indefinite fast would continue. “The police stopped Patkar and she was subsequently sent to jail without having been produced in front of the sub-divisional judicial magistrate. She might be presented in front of the magistrate on Friday, is what we have heard,” added Kumar.

The petitioners and interveners of the case in the High Court have requested for independent assessment of the rehabilitation sites and compliance with the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award (NWDTA). “In the petition, they have requested not to allow any inhuman and violent action against non-violent and peaceful communities and families already affected and to be affected by Sardar Sarovar Project,” said Mishra.

The petition requests the High Court to ensure that the resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) takes place according to the provisions of the NWDTA, state-level R&R policy and the Supreme Court judgments.

The Supreme Court, in its order in February, had stated that “we permit such of the 'project affected families', who have any grievance, to raise the same, before the concerned Grievance Redressal Authority, within one month from today. In case such a representation is made, and is accepted by the concerned Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA), the concerned State Government shall implement the recommendation, as expeditiously as possible, without raising any unnecessary objection. In case, any of the “project affected families” is not satisfied with the recommendations made by the GRA (on the representation, or alternatively, if no decision is taken thereon, within three months of registration of such representation), it shall be open to family, to pursue its cause before a Court of competent jurisdiction, in consonance with law”.

The Supreme Court had ordered resettlement of people from 192 villages before July 31 because the height of Sardar Sarovar Dam, on the Narmada river near Navagam in Gujarat, was to be increased by 17 metres to 138.72 metres and their homes and land would fall in the area that would be submerged.

In its order, the SC had directed that there should be civic amenities, cultural monuments, health and education facilities, religious sites as well as all social and public services from original villages.

But, the GRA has not passed any order. “It is a clear violation of the law. Once the GRA passes its resolution, it will require a few months and maybe even years for the construction of amenities of around 78 R&R sites,” added Mishra.

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Published: 11 Aug 2017, 8:19 PM