The Supreme Court on Thursday appointed former Chief Justice of India A. S. Anand as the Chairman of the high-level Empowered Committee to go into all aspects (except legal and constitutional issues) of the Maullaperiyar dam dispute between the States of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

A five-judge Constitution bench comprising Justices D.K. Jain, B. Sudershan Reddy, Mukundakam Sharma, R.M. Lodha and Deepak Verma in its formal order asked the Centre to notify the committee within four weeks. The Bench asked both Kerala and Tamil Nadu to decide on their representatives within two weeks after consulting the Chairman.

The Centre would nominate two technical experts not connected with the dispute. The committee will go into all issues, including the safety aspects of the dam, raising the water level beyond 136 ft as also the Kerala’s demand for a new dam.

The Supreme Court on February 27, 2006 in its judgment permitted Tamil Nadu to raise the water level in the dam beyond 136 ft up to 142 ft after carrying out minor repairs. Within few days, the Kerala Legislature enacted the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2006 that seeks to override the Supreme Court judgment. Tamil Nadu filed a fresh suit challenging the validity of the law. After elaborate hearing by both the States, the Constitution Bench has now constituted the Empowered Committee to go into various issues raised in the suit.

While Tamil Nadu maintained that the dam was safe up to the water level of 142 ft, Kerala expressed concern that the dam would not be safe if the level was raised beyond 136 ft.

Kerala offered to build a new dam at its cost which would ensure that there was no fall in the water drawals of Tamil Nadu.

The Bench granted six months for the committee to complete its task and file its report and directed the matter to be listed for further directions on September 20 for consideration of legal and constitutional issues.