Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan has constituted a five-Judge Constitution Bench to hear Tamil Nadu’s suit questioning Kerala’s law to prevent raising the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam beyond 136 ft. as against 142 ft. allowed by the Supreme Court judgment of February 2006.

A Bench of Justices D.K. Jain, B. Sudershan Reddy, Mukundakam Sharma, R.M. Lodha and Deepak Verma will have the first sitting on November 23 for directions on the modalities of hearing and to fix the schedule. On November 10, a three-judge Bench of Justices Jain, Sharma and Lodha in its reference order had said, “We are of the view that for deciding some of the issues framed in the suit, it would be necessary to decide certain substantial questions of law involving interpretation of the Constitution, in particular: Articles 3 and 4 read with Article 246 of the Constitution; Article 131 read with Article 32; Proviso to Article 131 read with Articles 295 and 363 of the Constitution and the effect of the Constitution (26th Amendment) Act, 1971; and the effect of decision of this Court in Mullaperiyar Environmental Protection Forum vs. Union of India & Ors. in the context of aforereferred constitutional provisions.”

The court said, “The contesting parties shall maintain status quo in respect of Mullaperiyar Dam as existing today. However, order of status quo will not be an impediment for the plaintiff (State of Tamil Nadu) to carry out maintenance and repairs for proper upkeep of the said dam. It will be open to the parties to apply, could there be an occasion for modification, variation or alteration of the order or need for any fresh order.”