The Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to entertain an application by Tamil Nadu challenging the permission granted by the Central government to Kerala to conduct a survey and investigation in the Periyar Tiger Reserve area for the possible construction of a new dam in place of the controversial Mullaperiyar dam.
A three-Judge Bench comprising Justice D.K. Jain, Justice Mukundakam Sharma and Justice R.M. Lodha in a brief order said: “No orders are called for at this stage in this application.”
Appearing for Tamil Nadu, senior advocate K. Parasaran pleaded for status quo or a stay on the survey by Kerala. When Mr. Justice Sharma said, “If it’s an innocuous survey there’s no need for stay,” Mr. Parasaran observed: “There’s something more than what meets the eye.”
Mr. Justice Sharma said: “The survey may be fruitful or not, we don’t know. It’s only at a formative stage to find out whether the new dam is feasible or not.”
Mr. Justice Jain said: “The new dam cannot be built overnight. They [Kerala] will have to get permission from the Central government for the construction of the dam. It is not a case that the dam will be ready the moment the survey is found viable.”
Mr. Justice Lodha said: “Your apprehensions are premature and not well-founded. You [Tamil Nadu] have not received any proposal for the new dam from Kerala for you to react.”
When Mr. Parasaran said Ministers in Kerala were making statements that the new dam would be built at any cost, Mr. Justice Jain said: “We can’t go by Ministers’ statements. We can only say it is unfortunate and irresponsible.”
Mr. Justice Jain found fault with Tamil Nadu for not filing a copy of Kerala’s proposal submitted to the Centre seeking permission for the survey.
He said: “You have given us only a brief summary of the proposal. How can we pass an order without the actual proposal and without hearing the other side [the Centre and Kerala]? You file a comprehensive application with the actual proposal and details.”
When Mr. Parasaran said, “We don’t want to face a fait accompli situation,” Mr. Justice Jain responded: “As and when that situation arises we will deal with it.”
Counsel for Kerala G. Prakash pleaded for adjourning the hearing by two months citing the permission granted by the Centre for conducting the survey.
He cited the absence of senior counsel Harish Salve (who was arguing the Reliance case in another court) as the reason to seek adjournment.
The Bench, however, declined the request and proceeded to hear arguments on the main suit filed by Tamil Nadu.