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SC to hear two review petitions on interlinking rivers

September 25, 2012 15:40 IST

The Supreme Court will hear two review petitions -- one by the Central Ground Water Authority and the other by 21 eminent citizens -- and decide on whether to issue notice and hear the same at length, a press release stated.

The second petition has been filed by the likes Ramaswamy R. Iyer, former secretary water resources, social activist Medha Patkar, Vandana Shiva, Prof A Vaidyanathan, well known economist and former member of Planning Commission, Manoj Kumar Misra, formerly of the Indian Forest Service and currently executive director of PEACE Institute Charitable Trust, Delhi and Convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, Madhu Bhaduri, a retired IFS Officer, former Indian Ambassador to Mexico and Vietnam and Ashok Khosla, chair, Development Alternatives, president of International Union for Conservation of Nature, co-chair, international resource panel and chair of the Civil Society Committee on the Interlinking of Rivers among other experts.

The petition raises the fundamental question that the order of the Supreme Court amounts to judicial overreach into the executive domain since it is not for the courts to make policies.

Further, there is a substantial body of expert opinion that the project is ill-conceived and fraught with dangerous consequences (to humans, environment and the economy), i.e., that the project is most definitely not in the national interest.

The Supreme Court did not study these expert opinions before delivering such a drastic judgment. Further, the court pre-empted prescribed procedures and processes. It is submitted that in the normal course, a project goes through certain stages and procedures: formulation (concept, pre-feasibility, feasibility, options assessment, DPR); examination/evaluation from various angles (techno-economic, environmental, ecological, financial, social, etc) by the appropriate agencies, committees and ministries; statutory clearances under the Environment Protection Act, the Forest Conservation Act, the Wildlife Protection Act, the Electricity Act, and other Acts, and the necessary state government approvals; compliance with the procedures prescribed in the EIA notification of Sept 2006, the Forest Rights Act, the Panchayats (Extention to the Schedule Areas) Act or PESA, the National Rehabilitation Policy, etc; acceptance of the project by the Planning Commission from the national planning point of view; concurrence by the finance ministry from the budgetary and financial clearance angles; and finally a decision by the cabinet. In directing the government to implement the project the judgment has ignored all the above mandatory processes and procedures.

The SC, in its judgment dated February 27, had directed the Union of India to implement the interlinking of rivers project and to set up a special committee to carry out that implementation; laid down that the committee's decisions shall take precedence over all administrative bodies created under the orders of this court or otherwise; directed the Union Cabinet to take all final and appropriate decisions, and laid down a time limit of 30 days (preferably) for such decision-making.

It also granted "liberty to the learned amicus curiae to file contempt petition in this court, in the event of default or noncompliance of the directions contained in this order".