SC allows TN to raise Mullaperiyar dam height

SC allows TN to raise Mullaperiyar dam height

SC allows TN to raise Mullaperiyar dam height

Holding that the over-a century-old Mullaperiyar dam is safe, the Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed the Tamil Nadu government to raise the water level to 142 feet and ultimately to 152 feet after completion of strengthening measures at the dam, situated in Thekkady district of Kerala.

A five-judge Constitution bench presided over by Chief Justice R M Lodha declared the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2006 as unconstitutional. The court also pulled up the Kerala government for passing the Act overruling its verdict of 2006, wherein it had declared the dam safe and allowed the Tamil Nadu authorities to raise the water level.

“The state of Kerala is restrained by a decree of permanent injunction from applying and enforcing the impugned legislation or in any manner interfering with or obstructing the state of Tamil Nadu from increasing the water level to 142 feet,” the bench said.

The bench, also comprising Justices H L Dattu, C K Prasad, Madan B Lokur and M Y Eqbal, said the earlier judgment of this court given on February 27, 2006 operated as res judicata (a matter that has been adjudicated and not be pursued further) on the issue of the safety of the dam for raising the water level to 142 feet and ultimately to 152 feet after completion of further strengthening measures.

The apex court verdict is likely to cause much heartburn in Kerala. Mullaperiyar is a masonry dam and was constructed pursuant to the Periyar Lake Lease Agreement of October 29, 1886 across Periyar river. The construction continued for about eight years and was completed in 1895. The dam is owned and operated by the government of Tamil Nadu. The length of the main dam is 1,200 feet while the top is 155 feet.

The apex court expressed its displeasure over the enactment of the law by the Kerala government to bypass its verdict. “A decision which disposes of the matter by giving findings upon the facts is not open to change by legislature. A final judgement, once rendered, operates and remains in force until altered by the court in appropriate proceedings,” the bench said.

The court did not find any merit in the Kerala government’s contention that the Act was passed for the safety of people of the state. In order to allay the apprehensions of Kerala on the safety of the dam, the court set up a three-member supervisory committee comprising one representative from the Central Water Commission(CWC) and one each from Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

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