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U'khand disaster: SC rejects plea for panel to study report

New Delhi, May 10, 2014, DHNS: 1:41 IST
The Supreme Court has for now refused permission sought by the Centre to form another committee to study the expert panel report on the 2013 Uttarakhand flood tragedy, while maintaining its stay on any construction on the 24 hydroelectric power projects in the hilly state. PTI file photo
The Supreme Court has for now refused permission sought by the Centre to form another committee to study the expert panel report on the 2013 Uttarakhand flood tragedy, while maintaining its stay on any construction on the 24 hydroelectric power projects in the hilly state.

The apex court, instead, asked the government to explain the basis for such a request.
The Union government wanted to set up another panel to assess the report prepared by the Ravi Chopra-headed committee formed in line with the apex court’s directions in August last.

Chopra, director of the Dehradun-based People’s Science Institute, and others reportedly recommended dropping of 23 of the hydroelectric power projects claiming those played a significant role in the 2013 disaster.

Additional Solicitor General R K Khanna, appearing for the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) submitted before a bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Vikramjit Sen that the government required to constitute another committee since there were two conflicting reports on the issue.

The MoEF also filed an affidavit stating that the expert body submitted its report in April, in two volumes and some additional documents. It wanted time to study those reports as two members of the committee had submitted a separate report.

“Conflicting views and difference of opinions have emerged in two reports which needed to be carefully considered. Therefore, MoEF proposed to constitute a small expert group to study these two reports and come out with final findings and recommendations.

For this purpose 3-month time period may be granted to the ministry by the court,” the affidavit said.

The apex court, however, seemed unimpressed with the plea as the Centre failed to put forth some solid reasons for a new expert committee.

“We have gone through both the reports. We feel that it would be appropriate to give an opportunity to the MoEF to examine the reports and come out with concrete reasons for constituting another committee. The affidavit does not disclose any valid reasons for reconstituting the committee,” the bench said.

“In such circumstances, the matters stand adjourned (to July 22) to examine the reports and to come out with appropriate proposal if they are desirous to have another committee. We make it clear that no further constructions shall be undertaken by any of the 24 projects, until further orders,” the bench said.

The apex court had on August 13 last restrained the Centre as well as the Uttarakhand government from granting any environmental or forest clearance to a hydroelectric power project in the state, while expressing concern over the Uttarakhand disaster that caused huge loss to lives and properties in June.

It had then stayed construction work on 24 out of total 39 proposed projects in the state, saying those were found to be significantly impacting biodiversity in two sub-basins of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers.

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