"Panel looking into all aspects of safety of dam"

There is nothing serious, grave or emergent about the safety of the Mullaperiyar dam warranting our interference at this stage, the Supreme Court observed on Tuesday and asked Tamil Nadu and Kerala not to arouse people's feelings and create a fear psychosis.

The Empowered Committee, headed by the former Chief Justice of India, A.S. Anand, was looking into all aspects regarding the safety of the dam and no order was required at this stage, observed a five-judge Constitution Bench comprising Justices D.K. Jain, R.M. Lodha, C.K. Prasad, Deepak Verma and Anil R. Dave.

The Bench, however, said the apprehensions of Kerala regarding the safety of the dam could not be brushed aside since the water level in the dam had gone up beyond 136 ft on four days from November 26 to December 2, coupled with earthquakes.

Rejecting arguments of senior counsel Raju Ramachandran, appearing for Tamil Nadu, that Kerala was creating fear psychosis and Tamil Nadu wanted to allay the apprehensions, Justice Jain said: “You can't say these apprehensions have no basis. Why did you [Tamil Nadu] allow the water level to go beyond 136 ft when our status quo order is in operation. You are obliged to ensure that the water level is maintained at 136 ft. May be the increase in water level, coupled with earthquakes is a cause of concern to Kerala.”

The Bench made it clear to Tamil Nadu that it should maintain the water level at 136 ft.

Mr. Ramachandran said there was a self-correcting mechanism. The sluices were kept open and water beyond 136 ft would automatically spill over; whether the level went beyond 136 ft on four days as claimed by Kerala had to be verified.

The Bench was hearing applications filed by Kerala, to reduce the water level in the dam from 136 ft to 120 ft, and Tamil Nadu for deployment of CISF for protection of the dam and to pass an order to restrain Kerala Ministers and officials from making statements creating fear psychosis among the people about the safety of the dam.

While dismissing as not pressed Kerala's application, Justice Jain told senior counsel P.P. Rao, appearing for Kerala: “The whole gamut of the controversy is before the empowered committee. The fact that the committee has decided to inspect the dam shows it is seized of the matter.”

Justice Lodha supplemented Justice Jain saying “if the situation is so grave and serious, the committee would have sought our intervention and sought an order from us. It shows that the situation at the ground level is not that grave as projected by you [Kerala].There is nothing serious or grave which requires modification in the order. Let the committee go into all aspects and submit its report to the court. We will not pass any order or give any direction now.”

Mr. Rao replied that the apprehensions “are genuine and not fanciful as made out to be.” Justice Lodha regretted that both the parties, instead of dousing the fire, were adding fuel to it.”