Effort is to submit report to Supreme Court in January

The five-member Empowered Committee, headed by the former Chief Justice of India A.S. Anand, at its meeting here on Monday, will examine the reports it has received from various agencies it constituted to go into the safety of the Mullaperiyar dam in Kerala.

In December last, the committee conducted a spot inspection of the dam. It also heard the views of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and the Centre on the issues framed by it. Subsequently, it entrusted studies in the dam, including marine and naval diving tests to reputed institutes. On receiving their reports, the committee sought some clarifications and a reply is awaited.

The tests and studies undertaken are: scanning the upstream face of the dam using a remote-operated vehicle and digital camera by the Central Soil and Materials Research Station (CSMRS), Delhi; a non-destructive test by the Central Water and Power Research Station (CWPRS), Pune; a cable anchor stress test; a study by the Geological Survey of India; a bathymetric survey by the CWPRS; material testing by the CSMRS and the CWPRS; a seepage study by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC); a flood study by the Central Water Commission (CWC); taking cores and testing them by the CWPRS/CSMRS; in situ tests by the CWPRS; a stability check by the CWPRS and checking of measuring instruments used in the dam.

Internal session

Informed sources told The Hindu that the committee on Monday was expected to examine the various reports and come to a conclusion so that it could submit its report to the Supreme Court in the middle of January next. As it is only an internal meeting, the session is not open to lawyers, though Kerala filed an application insisting that the parties be given an opportunity of oral hearing again.

The other members on the panel are Justice K.T. Thomas, retired Supreme Court Judge representing Kerala; Justice A.R. Lakshmanan, retired Supreme Court Judge representing Tamil Nadu; C.D. Thatte, former Secretary to the Ministry of Water Resources; and D.K. Mehta, retired Chief Engineer, CWC.

Meanwhile, Kerala also urged the panel to review its order rejecting permission to produce additional evidence on safety of the dam based on the evidence of two experts, Dr. D.K. Paul and Dr. M.L. Sharma. The panel on August 31 rejected Kerala's application on the ground that the Supreme Court in 2009 had not taken these reports on record.

In its review application, Kerala said the committee ought not to have relied on the court order as there was no bar on its receiving evidence which related to the issues of seismic threat to the dam.

By another application, Kerala wanted the committee to provide the State full opportunity to address it orally on all the five issues framed and six additional issues suggested. The State sought supply of photocopies of the study reports and test results to be finalised by experts/agencies on the directions of the committee.

However, Tamil Nadu has strongly opposed Kerala's application saying, “It is wholly untenable and is only an attempt to delay the submission of the final report by the Empowered Committee. There is no merit and the same deserves to be rejected. The application, in effect, amounts to seeking a retrial of the suit before the Empowered Committee which is wholly impermissible.” Further, Kerala was mixing up the issue of adversarial/investigatory powers and submitting that this committee should follow the same before presenting the report to the Supreme Court. The entire attempt by Kerala was “to erroneously interpret” the order of the Constitution Bench as though it had directed the committee to adopt both the adversarial and investigative methods before rendering its report, Tamil Nadu said.

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