The Mullaperiyar dam case took a new twist on Wednesday with the Supreme Court constituting a high-level empowered committee to go into all issues, including the safety aspects of the dam, raising the water level beyond 136 ft as also Kerala’s demand for a new dam. A five-judge Constitution Bench comprising Justices D. K. Jain, B. Sudershan Reddy, Mukundakam Sharma, R. M. Lodha and Deepak Verma said the five-member committee, to be headed by a retired Supreme Court judge, would have two technical experts not connected with this dispute. They will be appointed by the Centre. Justice Jain told counsel for parties, “Let us see whether the constitution of the committee can solve the problem and buy peace between the two States.”

The Bench in its draft order said Tamil Nadu and Kerala would have the option to nominate a member each, who could be either a retired judge or a technical expert. The Bench after perusing the draft order submitted by Kerala in consultation with Tamil Nadu said formal orders to this effect would be passed on Thursday.

According to the draft order, “Apart from legal and constitutional issues, it appears to us [court] the real concern of the State of Tamil Nadu relates to the potential problems where the level of water in the dam could not be raised to 142 ft. The concern of the State of Kerala on the other hand appears to be relating to the safety of the dam. While Tamil Nadu has submitted that in the present suit they seek an invalidation of the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2006, that seeks to override the Supreme Court judgment in the previous case, Kerala has submitted that there are genuine concerns as to the safety of this dam, and that they have also offered to build a new dam at their cost which will ensure that there is no fall in the water drawals of Tamil Nadu and that their law is valid.”

The Bench said Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Centre could raise all the issues before the committee, which should submit its report in six months.

The Bench made it clear that after the receipt of the report, it would consider the legal and constitutional issues, including the validity of the Kerala law.

The Bench directed the matter to be listed for further directions after six months.