Opinion » Lead

Updated: March 14, 2012 15:03 IST

With all due respect, My Lords

Ramaswamy R. Iyer
Comment (68)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

It is not for the Supreme Court to decide how the government should ensure the right to water; in any case, the connection between this right and the river linking project is tenuous.

In recent times the Supreme Court of India, with a series of remarkable decisions, has earned our admiration, respect and gratitude. Alas, it has now come out with an extraordinary order on the Inter-Linking of Rivers (ILR) Project, which has caused consternation and dismay to many of us.

In 2002, in a post-retirement explanation, a defensive Justice Kirpal had said that his order on the river-linking project was not a direction but merely a recommendation. That defensiveness has now been abandoned. In the present order, the Supreme Court explicitly directs the Executive Government to implement the project and to set up a Special Committee to carry out that implementation; it lays down that the committee's decisions shall take precedence over all administrative bodies created under the orders of this court or otherwise; it (graciously) authorises the Cabinet to take all final and appropriate decisions, and lays down a time-limit of 30 days for such decision-making (though it has the saving grace to say “preferably”); and it grants “liberty to the learned Amicus Curiae to file contempt petition in this court, in the event of default or non-compliance of the directions contained in this order”.

The normal course

In the normal course, a project goes through certain stages and procedures: formulation; examination from various angles by the appropriate agencies, Committees, and Ministries; statutory clearances under the Environment Protection Act and the Forest Conservation Act; compliance with the procedures prescribed in the National Rehabilitation Policy; acceptance of the project by the Planning Commission from the national planning point of view; and finally a decision by the Cabinet. The Supreme Court rides roughshod over all this and orders not quick consideration and decision-making by the government, but implementation.

Are the proposed Special Committee and the Cabinet free to examine the project and come to the conclusion that it is unacceptable and must be rejected? No, they are under the Supreme Court's order to implement the project and may face contempt proceedings if they fail to do so. The project decision has been taken away from the hands of the government; it has been exercised by the Supreme Court; the government and the Planning Commission have been reduced to the position of subordinate offices or implementing agencies of the Supreme Court.

It could be argued that the above is a misrepresentation of what the Supreme Court has done, and that the learned judges are only concerned at the delay in the implementation of an approved project and asking for early implementation. In fact, there is no approved, sanctioned project called “the inter-linking of rivers project”. In 2003, when there was a raging controversy about this idea, an important defence by its supporters was that it was not a project but a grand concept; that it will consist of 30 links, each of which will be a project that will go through all the usual examinations and procedures; and that the critics are needlessly raising the bogey of gigantism. If it is a concept, how can it be ‘implemented'? It has first to be translated into projects, and each of those projects has to be properly approved or rejected, as the case may be. Thereafter we can talk about implementation.

How many of those 30 projects have been actually approved? None. Three — Ken-Betwa, Damanganga-Pinjal, Par-Tapi-Narmada — have reached the stage of preparation of Detailed Project Reports, and one (Polavaram), though included in the ILR Project, was separately taken up by the Andhra Pradesh government on somewhat different lines, but is mired in controversy. There is not a single case of a project actually sanctioned and ready for implementation.

The learned judges may say that this is precisely what worries them; that by now the projects should have been well under way; that a good project or concept or whatever it was, announced in 2002, is languishing; and that the judiciary has to step into the vacant space created by non-action by the Executive and issue the necessary direction. This is the gap-filling theory. However, there is a fallacy here. The “delay” is not the result of executive failure or inefficiency, but a deliberate (though unstated) slowing down of action on the project. The NDA had announced the project in 2002 with fanfare and trumpets. The UPA government which followed in 2004 was not very enthusiastic about the project but at the same time did not want to abandon it; its Common Minimum Programme stated that the project would be comprehensively re-assessed in a fully consultative manner. This was a clear indication of reservations about the project. Thereafter the project has been in the doldrums. Unfortunately, the government's attitude towards the project was never made unambiguously clear to either the general public or the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court was clearly entitled to ask the government to state categorically where it stood in this matter: whether it considered the project to be a good (or the only) answer to the country's needs; if so, whether it intended to proceed with it; or alternatively, whether it had decided to drop the whole idea, and if so, on what grounds. What the Supreme Court was not entitled to do was to issue a direction to the government to implement the project.

Why has it done so? It would be wrong to attribute this to a desire for aggrandisement. The Supreme Court is convinced that the project is good and urgently needed; and that a very important national initiative is getting bogged down because of various reasons and needs to be galvanised. It has come to that conclusion because of a report by the National Council for Applied Economic Research.

Two problems

There are two problems here. First, assuming that there is a serious water scarcity problem, it is not the business of the Supreme Court to deal with it; there is an Executive Government to deal with such matters. True, the citizen's right to water is a fundamental right, and therefore the Supreme Court is concerned with it; but while it may direct the government to ensure that the right is not denied, it is not for it to lay down the manner in which or the source from which that right should be ensured. Moreover, the connection between the right to water and the ILR Project is very tenuous; it is the large demand for irrigation water that generally drives major projects and long-distance water transfers. It is true, again, that there are intractable inter-State river-water disputes, and these are of concern to the Supreme Court; but the Supreme Court can at best direct the Executive Government to find early answers to river water disputes, and not recommend a particular answer such as the ILR project, which may in fact generate new conflicts.

Secondly, and finally, we come to the heart of the matter, namely the view that the country faces a looming water crisis; that the answer lies in augmenting supplies; that given the magnitude and distribution of India's future water requirements, the ILR project is the best possible answer; and that it is in the national interest to implement it quickly. It is that conviction that provides, in the Supreme Court's view, the justification for its intervention. If that view of India's water crisis and its solution is challenged, the whole basis for the Supreme Court's order collapses.

This article will not enter into a discussion of this vital question, but will merely point out that there is a diversity of views on it, which the Supreme Court has failed to consider. The NCAER may have taken one view of the matter, but there are other views. The cogent case against the project has been succinctly stated in the editorial in this paper on 1 March 2012. That knocks the bottom out of the Supreme Court's order.

In 2002, when the NDA government announced the ILR Project, a fierce controversy broke out. There were many who hailed the initiative, but there were many others who deplored it as not only uncalled for but as positively disastrous. Many State governments expressed strong reservations on the project. Articles appeared in newspapers and journals. Books were published on the subject. How much of this vast literature have the learned judges read? How could they rely on the NCAER's report without reading other scholarly work? Even if the learned judges did not have time to read all the available material, should they not at least have heard a dozen scholars representing different disciplines and a few social activists before they decided to issue directions to the government?

This article will conclude with an earnest and respectful request to the Supreme Court to withdraw or at least put on hold its order, conduct further hearings, listen to a wider range of opinions, and reflect on the matter before it comes to firm conclusions.

(Ramaswamy R. Iyer is a former Secretary, Water Resources, Government of India.)

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It is ridiculous to see those who cannot, and would not even think of
doing that, restore all the depleted and lost lakes, ground waters,
and wells and tanks, which is possible with a moderate expenditure of
energy and money, talk about or support such stupendously stupid
projects and judgments. There is an apt satirical proverb in Telugu in
this regard: "Utti kegara leni Amma Swarganiki egurutundata!" (The
woman who cannot jump to catch the hanging pot, claims she can fly to
heaven!) which applies squarely to the supporters - civilians and
judges alike - of such stupid and crazy projects with not only
national but international ramifications and deleterious consequences.

Posted on: Mar 14, 2012 at 00:13 IST

Supreme Court of India has more credibility in people than the other pillars of democracy(strictly my opinion).It is dishearting to see such a pillar is fancified by the irrelevant idea of ILR to improve irrigation facilities in our country.To improve irrigation and domestic water supply there are many more areas to concentrate which provide reliant solutions in long run.One such idea could be rain water harvesting.Regular maintainance of lakes,ponds,improving ground water level with different measures could prove effective than ILR.
In my locality, i mean in and around 5 square kms of my house,there were 3 lakes and few ponds.Out of them all ponds were made plots sold by real estate agents which are now recognised by government also.Out of 3 lakes one is eutrophicated,second is half occupied,third one is a bit better the government build a fence and is saved. As a result of this i see a drastic change in ground water level.While digging a borewell we used to get ample water a 150 feets now it takes nearly 700 feet to find water, all this just in a span of 12 years.
I feel supreme court should address on reliable solutions than on fancy,attractive solutions.

from:  SravanKumarY
Posted on: Mar 7, 2012 at 11:54 IST

It gives me immense pleasure reading through some of the comments. I
wish may all of us could decipher the hidden political linkage to this
article. NDA by far has brought most number of projects which have strengthen the skeleton of nation's economy. why did feasibility of
this project changed between 2002 and 2004? not tough to speculate!!!

Why the author is so outrageous to the style adopted by supreme court
and not to the plight of our nation(which is starving a substantial
growth in infra, power and agri-resources like water etc) lies in the
justification he is presenting and his lineage. Perhaps it is an
attempt to defend the offence which some of the decision makers are
continually committing only to favor their personal interests.

I hope supreme court continue intervening in all such projects of
prime importance to the nation and which are in halt for various

from:  Nikhilesh Kumar
Posted on: Mar 5, 2012 at 16:58 IST

In heavy rains we get more water then our Above Ground storage capacity.In high intensity rains 70% water flows from fields - is lost as run-off causing floods in low lying area. 80 % water is needed for agricultural. Plant roots absorb water when it becomes SOIL-MOISTURE. Rainwater can be stored underground as soil-moisture in the fields where it falls,to create alternative source of water for crops,which will reduce load on existing dams - water will be available for Industrial Production,drinking - other needs. But a Path is needed for recharging this huge rainwater underground. During heavy rains existing methods of rainwater harvesting like Well-recharging, Borewell Recharging, Rooftop RWH, Percolation tanks etc cannot recharge even 10% rainwater underground. We have a tested RWH method which can MAKE RURAL INDIA WATER SECURE. KFP(Patented) Rwh is a Low cost permanent solution of recharging upto 80% rainwater in individual land,interested ? visit

from:  vijay Kedia
Posted on: Mar 5, 2012 at 12:27 IST

Dear Friends,
DO you know why SC I stepping into every issues in India. It is because democracy in India
is total failure. In India democracy means family rule. Family rule is corrupted just like in
north Korea, in middle east countries, and ruled through remote control. In India top
executive positions are appointed by powerful family rulers...not elected by people. In every
state India politics is controlled by family and these family has access to illegal money, mafia
and antisocial elements. In India politics is not a profession....people are entering politics
not because their passion to serve the Country but to get license to loot public money. India
must be ruled by a President directly elected by people based on merits, quality and honesty.
People lost faith in democracy and family rule based in caste, religion and black money.
Now India lost its dignity in international stage because of unpopular Puppet government.
We common people strongly support judicial activism.

from:  GK
Posted on: Mar 5, 2012 at 02:47 IST

Stop This Witch-Hunt:Why are you so obsessed with finding fault with the
Apex Court.If the Government is sleepy, Bureaucracy sluggish, Shouldn't
there be someone to give Direction to Governing body ?Does that deserve
so much lampooning? Introspect yourself. Don't be pet to Government. If the
concerning body had perturbed in this issue,why would Supreme court
takes initiative?

from:  chaitanya
Posted on: Mar 5, 2012 at 00:36 IST

Our executive is slow, inefficient, callous about common men needs and does not have a foresight to see how water issues could question our federal structure. In this situation it is necessary and commendable that judiciary takes an proactive role!

from:  vijay
Posted on: Mar 4, 2012 at 17:28 IST

The views expressed in the article are views of the silent majority. Apart from questionable financial viability of river linking project (ILR as it has been referred to in the article), the consequential environmental damage of such a project is a matter of great concern. Those who had visualized it had paid very little attention to the entire concept. It is time the Supreme Court reviews its decision at the earliest.

from:  Narendra M Apte
Posted on: Mar 4, 2012 at 16:28 IST

Let the judiciary do its business and law should find its way out. Appreciating the honorable judiciaries keen to implement the project. The judiciary should know that we are wasting a lot of rain water ever year, lot of peoples had put a lot of suggestions in front of judiciary, Legislative and executive in order to preserve this god giving gift. But no action still is taken from any of these constitutional body. If we implement this idea then we don't want such a big budget and non ecofriendly project to be implemented.

from:  PRANAB
Posted on: Mar 4, 2012 at 16:03 IST

instead go for rain water harvesting ,restoration of numerous ponds, lakes,regional crops according to monsoon pattern instead of high water requiring high value crops,discourage lift irrigation, make dams and artificial lakes to block and store excess rain water,spread awareness for conservation of water.don't change natural course of river,if natural forces changes course of river then its ok.

from:  samar ballabha mohapatra
Posted on: Mar 4, 2012 at 15:38 IST

It seems now a days that everyone is showing their expertise in
otherman's territory. Judges trying to do executive job.Media trying
to do courts job and so on. They forget what they have to do.
Crossborder activism is dangerous to democracy. Can the court find
money for such huge project.Can the court revert the ecological
disaster that may loom large on basin land . Yes ,their intention is
to tide over the scarcity of water.but ILP is not a panacea of all
water problem .Thanks Ramaswamysir ,continue your service by your
learned articles .I stand behind you.

from:  T.Rajagopal
Posted on: Mar 4, 2012 at 05:56 IST

Are not the state govts. and the central govt. more responsible for
the Mullai dam crisis. Why it has gone for the consideration of the
Supreme court? The govts. political parties and the bureaucracy have
not discharged their duties properly. Supreme court has no profound
knowledge about engineering medical academy ect. IT is a body for
adjudication. It acted on the basis of a newspaper report about the
lathicharge in the Ramleela maidan. When all segments fail to act
properly the judiciary is duty bound to call the shots. It should not
be called overreaching. Here in the case interlinking the rivers the
govts have not done their homework properly. This a fit case for the
Supreme court to come into picture. It simply nudges the govt from its
slumber. Fault finding and reading in between the lines are our fault.

from:  Devadas Salem
Posted on: Mar 3, 2012 at 20:45 IST

We have heard such arguments before. But this nation called India has to stop the obsession with "FORM OVER SUBSTANCE " or go by right procedures - and get work done which the people desperately need - instead of endlessly harping on following proper procedures, which incidentally is not going anywhere nor achieving any tangible results for the people. Hence, the Supreme Court action should be welcomed. What is the use of all this theory and procedures when it does not deliver any goods to the people? - Time to wake up and stop this pontification of proper procedures business. It is testing the peoples' patience and endurance beyond limits. If you cant stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen.

from:  Anand
Posted on: Mar 3, 2012 at 17:43 IST

Judicial interference on executive and legislative aspects are gradually increasing leaps and bounds in recent few years! It appears that in India there appears to be rule of judiciary than democracy. Judiciary is usurping power of executive and law makers instead of basing its decisions on the Constitution and laws Recent many pronouncements without any basis of law like linking of rivers violate the well defined power of judiciary, legislature and executive as propounded in our Constitution.It has become matter of concern.SC and HCs are doing all things right from appointment of judges to fixing their own highest pay-perks of their own Judiciary, while interfering in the matter of policy decisions, even threat of contempt of court. And judiciary also fixes schedule time frame to implement the directives. What is harm in handing over governance of India to judiciary and democracy should be suspended after over 60 years in vogue??

from:  krishn kumarsingh
Posted on: Mar 3, 2012 at 16:28 IST

SC steps on the shoes of the government only when the government fails to act. This is one example, 2G ruling was another example, even instructing Delhi government to construct shelters for the poor in winter is another example. In all these examples we can see SC had acted only after sufficient time was given to the government to act.

from:  K Stephen Daniel
Posted on: Mar 3, 2012 at 13:53 IST

The basic reason behind all the malises is that there is no time limit for disposal of any case or petition or an appeal- whether it be the thousands of cases pending before the courts (and still the judges keep on postponing the hearings without any time-limit); the mercy petitions pending with the President; the disproportionate assets cases, being dragged for years, perhaps until the death of the key witnesses;...the list goes on. I remember the saying " Justice delayed is Justice denied". If a specific Time Limit is set for every issue, expanding the list specified in the Citizen's Charter, proposed by the UPA Government, then there will be an end to all these issues. Of course, the Interlinking of Rivers is a project of national importance, to be executed on top priority, in view of its potential of Flood Control, Drought Relief; Irrigation Potential; Power Generation; Inland Navigation; Employment Potential and National Integration. PRABHAKAR BENEDICT, Tuticorin.

from:  Prabhakar Benedict
Posted on: Mar 3, 2012 at 13:22 IST

What happened to 'Separation of Powers'? What will happen if
Parliament approves Rs. 1 crore per annum for the next 50,000 years?

from:  malini r
Posted on: Mar 3, 2012 at 12:23 IST

It is sad that all our wise men wake up after the event. Why did not these experts raise these points vigorously in media and in court when the case was in progress. The type of decision which supreme court has given can technically be called an ex-parte decision. There is still time for the experts to get together and file a proper petition based on scientific evidence for review of the decision.

from:  taffazull
Posted on: Mar 3, 2012 at 12:15 IST

What needs to be done is engage on Water Literacy Mission by educating the people on the benefits of recycle, reuse and conservation of the natural water resources. Rain Water harvesting schemes and waste water recycling and reusing schemes should be announced instead of such impractical River diversion projects, which will not only have a major impact on the ecology, but on the social, cultural and demographic fabric of the country. We do not need a civl war on Water.

from:  Bibin Babu
Posted on: Mar 3, 2012 at 10:53 IST

"First, assuming that there is a serious water scarcity problem, it is not the business of the Supreme Court ...; .. True, the citizen's right to water is a fundamental right, and therefore the Supreme Court is concerned with it; but while it may direct the government to ensure that the right is not denied, it is not for it to lay down the manner...." very vague and unclear. As one of the readers had pointed out the why there so many water tribunels their solutions unimplemented and so may times states approaching it? Why? China has adopted river linking redirections etc successfully and gainfully too.Millions of tonnes of water are just let into the sea whereas places few hundred kilometers are parching. During summer people are driven to miles to fetch drinking water wheres floods create havoc at the very same place hardly a few months later. Again if courts should not interfere why there are so many stay orders at chennai against the State Govt issued by the High Court?

from:  g narayanan
Posted on: Mar 3, 2012 at 08:44 IST

Another advantage of interlinking rivers in India: Now surface transport in Indian cities is very poorly planned and a big nightmare. Roads are very narrow and nobody want to give away their land for widening the road. Every household has minimum 2 cars. It takes at least 5 hours to reach Ernakulam town from Tripunithura and 6 hours from Vadavathoor to Kottayam Medical College. Interlinking water may help us to use water transport without traffic jam. Everyone will get opportunity to visit India's landmarks through interlinked river.

from:  Gopakumar TG Amayannor Kottayam
Posted on: Mar 3, 2012 at 01:54 IST

It might seem like "judicial outreach", but this is what happens when
a government sleeps over important issues like providing basic
necessities of life, to it's citizens. 60 + years after independence,
we do not have access to protected water supply, unpolluted air, and
good roads. Bureaucratic wrangles, red tape are rampant and where are
we, when it comes to this? The rich and the powerful have nothing to
worry about - they have access to these, while the ordinary citizen
has to struggle to even get these basic necessities. While all of this is happening, the population is growing unchecked.The government has abandoned the "family planning" initiative totally. The rich and corrupt are getting richer than every before, while we have a government that is doomed to inaction.
Leave aside the constitution, what is wrong if the supreme court reminds and then directs the government to do something - that should have been done decades ago? I see nothing wrong in the court's move.

from:  Sai Sailaja
Posted on: Mar 3, 2012 at 00:17 IST

I am very thankful to Mr. Ramaswamy for putting information from needs of water to implementation of ILR project, in between he also points out shortcomings of ILR from planning to implementation. Really it is not work of Supreme Court to order for implementing of ILR project but could ask for "reasons for delay,report on progress of works and after studying the report , recommend the government to make clear the way for implementing the project".Because Supreme Court is here to solve problems not for creating problems.

from:  Wasim
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 22:31 IST

By “directing” the government to start a civil engineering project of mammoth dimensions – potentially costing Crores of Crores in tax money– the SC seeks to expand its mandate and authority to hitherto unimaginable dimensions, far beyond what the constitution intended. Hypothetically what if the court tomorrow decides that the Government has not acted diligently (a proposition many may well agree to) of resolving the Kashmir problem and orders the army to march? Is there no limit to the court’s jurisdiction, even if is called "Supreme"? I think we are butting up against that point.

Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 21:44 IST

The directive of the SC must be seen in the context of the fight between States to share water. As there has been no move whatsoever on the part of the States to the very idea of interlinking rivers - thanks to the obduracy - the SC alone has the responsibility to take suitable action. In other words, the Executive has completely failed to take remedial action.

Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 20:14 IST

I like the idea of interlinking rivers. This will flow sacred water from river Ganga, Yemuna and Sarswathi to Mullaperiyar and sanctify Mullaperiyar water. Now Mullaperiyar is polluted with poison of politics. I may take Snana in sacred Ganga water in my hometown-Kottayam. South Indians may get an opportunity to enjoy Ganga in their hometown. I strongly support the idea.

from:  Gopakumar TG
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 20:13 IST

I disagree with Ramaswamy R. Iyer. His attitude is that of a typical
"Babu" in a government office. I do not blame him - after all he might
have spent decades in the slow bureaucratic "cant-do" atmosphere.

His attitude reminds of the attitude of right wing republicans in the
House and senate in the US. They will not let the democrats or the
president bring about change that will benefit the common man. They
create administrative hurdles, use their veto power - and each time
they cite reasons like "Big Government" or "Intrusive government" to
stall any reform, or change.

What surprises me is that the author knows there is a massive water
scarcity, but is happy to start a war of words, citing judicial
activism, to stall a good idea. How about we forget terms such as
"judicial overreach", and get to the business, of providing protected
water to all?

65 years after independence, we can not provide protected water to our
citizens. That is indeed a shame!

from:  Rama goutharaju
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 20:11 IST

Any project that involves taming the nature should be undertaken after elaborate studies because most of our actions in this regard are irreversible and will have a lasting impact. Therefore it is not a decision to be taken inside the court. There is no doubt behind the good intention of the Supreme Court but this is not a decision to be taken so lightly by just taking in account the view of one agency. Let us hope good sense will prevail in all quarters.

Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 20:10 IST

Mr Ramaswamy is clearly seemed to be really upset by the way supreme court is acting, I think he is disappointed as the SC was trying to skip EXECUTION COMMITTEE's analysis and R&D on this project. He seem to be upset because SC wanted this project to be out of the path of our SARKARI RED TAPISM. I am not bothered because SC was attacked for it's 'poor' direction given to the government, but the way he is worried for the inevitable and ubiquitous red tapism is some what bitter to digest, his words shown a typical sarkari elite class employee's nature. Respected sir, if our system is so nimble and fast why would there be a need of judicial system's interference,dont see that court has overrun our elected DEMOCRATIC system,ofcourse it has shown keen interest in implementing the project why it bothers you? The article would have been much better if you have questioned the leaders about the 10 years delay in implementing the project,atleast part of this project could've been implented.

from:  Raju
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 18:06 IST

A very carefully drafted article. Projects such as ILR should be dealt
with care and not haste. Though the project looks promising, it might
have catastrophic effects as we are trying to modulate the way of
nature. This project needs to be reviewed at very detailed level. We
as the citizen of this country humbly request the honourable Supreme
Court to please review every aspect of this project along with the
changes it might bring to the flora and fauna of the regions affected.
Carefully drafted DPRs of all the sub projects must be prepared and
reviewed. Only after finalization of DPRs of sub projects should the
DPR of the main ILR project should be prepared. This will ensure that
the risks involved are minimal. A few years of delay at any given
point is better than a disaster!

from:  Ashish Singh
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 17:33 IST

Diversion of river water is not child's play in ecological terms. It is meddling with the delicate balances that nature has created. Aral Sea is a good example of a well-intentioned river diversion that went horribly wrong. The feasibility and ecological impacts of such a massive endeavour needs to be analysed fully. Also, the waters of Ganga and Brahmaputra are not India's alone. Bangladesh has genuine concerns regarding any river diversions that affects the water flow to their territory.

from:  Vineeth
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 17:01 IST

Mr.Ramaswamy views are some what correct, im my view but the supreme court's order should be read as a wake up call to the govt,to act....

from:  Ambati
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 16:20 IST

many of us have not appreciated the judicial activism and have criticised in media, though in the guarded tones. When administration fail to perform, the judiciary must not sit on fence. Out politicians instead of solving the problems of the country they waste their time and money on multiplying these problems, grabbing powers and accumulating crores of rupees through the pipeline of kickbacks. the fact is that they themselves invited the judicial activism to pull their chestnuts out of the fire. But author in the above article very logically and rhetorically justified that there is a line of activism.

from:  Tarun Gupta
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 15:43 IST

First of all I would like to thank The Hindu team to publish this article. I am totally convinced with the logic given by the article.
The supreme court may in future order the biotechnology firms to genetically modify the Human Beings so that they don't get any disease because people have "right to life" and the government is responsible for their good health.This is a highly technical matter and should be rested with competent authorities.But would also say that the intentions of the court are just.

from:  Divya Prakash
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 15:27 IST

The SC might have crossed the line, but none of its "recommendations"
have been taken seriously by the government. The Govt has always
insulted the SC by ignoring such recommendations and by amending the
constitution it has also slapped the SC (We all know when). I believe
its not crossing the line of judicial activism. This is a very good
argument but is only one face of the coin. You must see the direction
in the light of China's river linking project. Just because there is
vast amount of literature on the matter doesnt mean that it is
absolutely harmful project. When there are examples of such projects
present one must first take time to analyse those projects through
context sensitive lenses and then decide whether it is possible or
not. Situations change everyday and hence we cannot rely just on
previous arguments. Even yesterday's article was one sided as this one

from:  Anoop
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 14:39 IST

Thanks for this very well informed and persuasive article. Interlinking of rivers is highly technical subject involving lot of politics / desires of people and future of whole landmass of Indian subcontinent. Now a days even superpowers dont order to take such atrocious actions to any nation. What right Supreme court has to play with the future of nation and enter into Executive domain ? It should stick to its area of jurisprudence. People of India have shown that they can control the executive in the long run.

from:  ANIL P.
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 13:31 IST

I am afraid, I disagree with the tone and gist of the article. Mega
projects are neither easy to conceive or execute. That said, the
scarcity of water - an essential element for survival, has plagued
India for decades. Consumption of water for domestic and industrial
use has gone up by leaps and bounds. At the same time population as
well as industries that consume water, have grown unchecked, thanks to
the lack of a coherent policy in the government. While all this happens, our elite - be it the Kurta or suit clad politician, the industrialist, or the IAS/IPS, have unlimited access to water resources, while the common man has to wait for the municipal lorry to bring water from bore-wells.

We do not like judicial activism, but when the government does
nothing, the courts have to represent the people. Someone has to
remind that "netas", that there is more to life than amassing power
and wealth.

from:  Mohan Narayanan
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 13:24 IST

Events of last few years have made it clear that higher judiciary is
becoming more assertive specially in an era of coalition government at
centre. And many a times they have been seen to breach their
constitutional mandate, as is clear from this river-linking judgement.
I hope, somebody reminds the learned judges that river-linking project
can't be implemented with stroke of a pen, it will need decades and
may be even more to link himalayan and deccan rivers. The intention of
the concerned judge(s) may be pure, but its not their domain to push
policy changes, directly or indirectly. The separation of powers under
the constitution is also a basic feature, which should not be violated
by either of the three pillars, the executive, the legislature or the

from:  sanjay
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 13:04 IST

So what solution does Mr. Ramaswamy propose for securing water/ irrigation resources for the country? Set up a committee that will provide employment to retired bureaucrats? A committee that will "consider all diverging opinions and take no decision for years together"? Leaders in every country, every large corporation, every organization have to take decisions based on conflicting views, ideas and suggestions. While they do mull all options, they do not take 5,10,15 years to just arrive at a decision. They take a call on what they consider is the best solution and go ahead. Once in a while they might err, but at least they move ahead. In India, on the other hand, politicians and bureaucrats have made an art out of indecisiveness. The encroachment of the SC on the Executive's turf might be unfortunate, but it has been necessiated by the complete inaction of the Executive.

from:  Vaibhav
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 13:01 IST

It seems that the arrogance our honorable judges is exceeding the arrogance of the executive.It seems they may one day order the destruction of the planet itself with their judicial arrogance and if the executive expresses its helplessness ,order its prosecution for the contempt of the court. Hell with the views of those who would like to preserve the earth and its environment for the survival of Homo sapiens and other cohabitants of the planet.A day will come all volcanic eruptions and earthquakes shall have to subordinate themselves to the judicial wisdom of our most honorable lordships who have declared themselves to be river gods Indian mythology shall shall have to reshape itself. Ganga shall no more flow from the hair locks of lord Shiva but from the domes of the supreme is high time we stop this contempt of nature and assure survival of life on this planet

from:  Dr. Virinder Singh
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 13:00 IST

The author seems to be stuck in a dream land where India is a
perfect democracy. It is a fact that we have great spans of land
which are frequently drought affected. Its a proven fact that our
deccan plateau is the world fastest growing desert. People talking
about the climate, please can anybody substantiate as to what the
effects will be. And wouldnt all the dept. be consulted before
drawing plans and climactic effects be taken into account. Even if
there is climate change, this is about survival over next 3
centuries. Water supply systems of places such as Hampi, Tanjore are
an example. Bangalore's drainage system is about a century old, but
the transport system is not. Bangalore dosent have major drainage
problems but has traffic woes. The good designs were made for
survival of people irrespective of time. Agreed that the SC seems to
be taking liberties, but, when cause is right it dosent matter.

from:  Vijay
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 12:31 IST

Increase in population is the main reason for water depletion. Will Supreme court order for population reduction?? Ridiculous.

from:  H. Prasad
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 12:20 IST

Nothing is impossible, Joining rivers may be difficult but not impossible, Of course conflict of right and responsibilities are arise ed time & again by such rulings by supreme Court, But where will the common man will look if its aspirations are not listened. For starting such projects first we need to start a nation wide awareness Derive, awakening common citizens regarding the advantages of these project, if we failed to do so it will again prove to be a flash point between the national & so called regional political powers.

from:  Akshay
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 11:48 IST

The author presented his point of view so logically and articulately that we can't deny the fact that Supreme court gave the ruling in haste and it requires reconsideration. Given the facts, a lot of scientific and ecological and environment related problems will arise. But arguing that Supreme court should not direct on the inactivity of politicians is completely wrong. The first time idea of ILR project came in 2002. Executive class had 10 years to, at least, frame the feasibility structure. It is, clearly, evident that political class is lacking will for development of the country. These days most of the political meetings conduct to decide on election strategy. Hence someone has to direct them to think in the right direction, to think for the greater nation interest and if Supreme court is doing that job, we should appreciate that.

from:  Tarun Gupta
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 11:43 IST

The Supreme Court has ignored the trend world over, especially in the
industralised world, to move away from promoting mega projects as
solutions to local problems. The adage "think globally, act locally," is lost on our learned judges who gave this order. Just the environmental impact assessment of interlinking rivers on national scale, is mind-boggling if not impossible because we would not have the requisite data and knowledge to do a fair assessment. Rivers are not just a resource for our water needs. They are habitats for thousands of animals, plants and other organisms. Moreover, all of us Indians know the cultural significance of rivers in India. How do we even incorporate or evaluate these factors in such a project? A decision in this matter based on one organisation's report is disastrous besides being outright undemocratic.

from:  Rajnsh
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 11:17 IST

The ILR project is not a case of judicial activism but of judicial transgress of the executive role. None; especially the honorable supreme court; should be short-sighted to weaken the pillars of democracy, of which executive is one.
Most of us agree that the executive is not as competent and decisive on matters of national interest as we would like. However having said that we should work within the framework of our constitution to address those short-comings. We only need to see in our backyard; Pakistan; to see how a judiciary at loggerheads with a weak executive can send the country into a chaotic mess.

from:  Anurag Somani
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 11:16 IST

With all due respect my fellow readers, extraordinary problems need
extraordinary solutions.The project initially announced in 2002 and
even after 10 years there was no assessment, no feasibility study as
such done and published by Govt. Yes the judiciary should not be
reaching this authoritative level on govt but then who would suggest
to govt to come up with a solution and how many of these suggestions
are given their consideration from govt in last 10 years?. Ecological
problems are of utmost importance but should not be at the cost of
survival of humanity.The World Bank estimates that India is ranked 2nd
in the world of the number of children suffering from malnutrition
where 47% of the children exhibit a degree of malnutrition.India, a
nation estimated to have a third of the world's poor.Should we go for
environment (where there is always a possible solution to conserve it
with dew effort) when our siblings are dying?

from:  Venu Gopal Reddy Muvva
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 11:11 IST

So many readers, sitting in their comfort, writing of unforseen disasters.So, as per their logic all canals in haryana and punjab should have brought disaster to those irrigated lands and diseases as it is naturally blocking the waters and diverting them against mother nature.The Indira canal brought irrigation in rajasthan, according to them mother nature reserved the area to be desert why we intervened.Now a lot of desert is green but due to water shortage all is not.Before canal come to Haryana, especially In Sirsa and Hisar,it was part of desert.Now you go their and see with your own eyes,whether it brought disaster or prosperity to those areas.River interlinking project is not about changing the natural path of rivers, it is about diverting surplus water, only for some days of year.In so many parts of rajasthan and haryana ground water is used for irrigation,that can be recharged.No land is permanenatlly barren and no land permanently fertile.Once grannry Bundelkhand is now barren.

from:  Dinesh Pilania
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 10:50 IST

The article with a logical facade implicitly supports Govt. unpardonable inaction for almost a decade to take ILR forward. The erudite columnist forgets the popular impression that the country is in the wrong hands and the so-called Executive Government is busy invariably inventing methods to survive, strengthening the 'divide and rule' policy and neglecting the problems of the poor. How long does it take for Govt. to study a national problem and develop a project? If it prefers slumber over vigilante, should the other establishments also slide into slumber until the next election? Instead of elaborating the inappropriateness of the use of the word 'implementation ', the column should have emphasized the need for expeditious action on the plan, as there is no other alternative in sight. The likely problems in implementing this project published in researches form just the constraints to the project. After all, ‘impossible’ does not exist for an achiever or a winner.

from:  V M Narain
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 10:34 IST

It is not expected of the Hindu to continue a systematic de railing of this concept through series of Negative Arguements.
Why we cannot think in rational thinking.Can we not hsrness the flood in the North to start with and IF successful slowly and methodically exapand to other regions.
DO we have to shoot a concept BEFORE all practical aspects are discussed or analysed threadbare. I do hope Hindu will allow some knowledgable Expert to present a PRO arguement for the benefit of it LOYAL readers who keep the Editorials of the Daily in High Esteem

from:  Arackal Narayanan
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 10:22 IST

@Dhruv Rakesh: "Sitting on a chair and arguing in favour of not doing
anything" No action is much more preferable than unthinking rash
"heroic" action endangering the generations to come!

from:  N.G. Krishnan
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 10:22 IST

We can argue every topic till its dead and that is exactly what most of our "executive" bodies count on. Assess and re assess something for so long that the fickle public memory loses interest in it and the proposal can be laid to rest. Sitting on a chair and arguing in favour of not doing anything is so much more easier than actually driving an intiative to a logical conclusion.

from:  Dhruv Rakesh
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 09:32 IST

The issue of linking rivers of the country is no mere legal issue for the courts to intervene. It is very much more than that. Whenever the interlinking of Indian is brought up we cannot but think of fate of Aswan High dam across river Nile at Egypt. Grandiose project built at enormous cost, though prevented the annual flooding is now considered now as unmitigated disaster.
Having built one of mightiest dam, the country is in horns of dilemma, destruction of the dam is unthinkable and the country has to suffer greatly the consequences. The glaring bitter lessons of Aswan dam forced through with ego over riding long term consequences should be grave warning of unthinking meddling of our most precious of resource.

from:  N.G. Krishnan
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 09:24 IST

Linking river is fraught with environmental issues. It might turn out to be a recipe for catastrophic environmental changes. Aral sea in russia is a good example. The big lake has dried up as it was used for irrigating other parts. The supreme court justices are not scientists. Without undertanding a whole lot of issues on river linking-scientific, environmental, people, livelihood - issuing orders like this is sheer stupidity on their part. Court activism is indeed very good but this is out of their league.

from:  Krish
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 09:21 IST

What will the government babus know about Water problems that the common man faces. If you were in certain areas of India where you will have to spend 2 hours of each day running behind water tankers than you will understand the mamoth problem India faces today. As the author says projects will never see the day of light, so it does not matter if the Supreme Court orders it or the people want it. The final word is with the people who will see what benefits them and what can fill their coffers.

from:  N Suresh Kumar
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 09:21 IST

We can bring an end to droughts only by comprehending the reasons
behind it. Irrational meddling on the equilibrium of the nature is
the main reason for most of the natural calamities. so this proposed
project is not meddling but in fact it is tearing apart mother
nature, which would augment drought problems in India.

from:  Sajid Kochi
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 08:34 IST

Well written article which as to reconsider and take a look at situation or apprise the situation. As said the link between right to water is not weak, it requires a larger situation analysis from a broader perspective Now progressiveness thinking, and with the advent of globalization, the rivers are being handed over to private players, how to ensure that right is not denied by this process, apart from disclaimers and charters how to bring it into practice.

from:  Deepak
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 08:17 IST

It is truly shocking to see such a directive from the Supreme Court,
which made some extraordinary and remarkable judgements in the past
couple of years. Probably the inaction of the Government in several
matters has pushed the Supreme Court to enter the executive matters of
the Government. The author of this article is right in pointing out
that it is up to the Government to decide on matters like this. As
said in the article, a more appropriate action should have been to ask
the Government for its views on the project and a timeline for a
detailed report on the pros and cons of the project.

from:  Dileep
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 08:04 IST

The writer has a point of view.It requires a good debate, but, the issue of inter- connecting the rivers should not be left at the mercy of politicians, who have atrack record of ignoring issues of national interest for their petty regional politics.

from:  Vipin Bhatnagar
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 08:02 IST

One doesn't needs to be a scholar to understand that ILR is a 'Childish idea' which an 8-10 year old child would fancy as a solution for floods and draught .It will also have a dangerous impact on even the climate.In short if this project is implemented it will result in the following problems at least(It would be a catastrophe or armagaddon..) 1)Irreversible damage and destruction to ecosystem and environment.Destruction of Biological hotspots etc 2)Massive Climate changes & earth quakes. 3)The whole of India will turn into a barren the whole of India will experience draught which is now only confined to certain specific areas. 4)Salinity intrusion into vast inland areas making them unfit for agricultural purposes. 5)Large scale spreading of water pollution making almost every water sources polluted. 6)Large scale spreading of disease vectors all over the country. etc.etc...

Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 07:45 IST

Ramaswamy Iyer is of limits in his opinion on the necessity of inter linking of rivers.That was the problem India faced then and now. A set of All knowing IAS men and politicians tinker with all developments in the country and this has pushed back the growth seriously.
Interlinking of river is far better than putting a dam and diverting the water to the hinterland if one considers the so called eccological balance.Inter linked rivers can be just stopped in case of necessity and water need not be transferred every year.( It is another matter in Mullai as it was taken up long ago). The very very huge quantum of water that flows out to sea from the western ghats should be used for feeding the hinterland by lift or diversion canals. What is objectionable is the concept of the boundaries of the area where alone this water can be used.For eg . In some years huge quantum of water flows to sea at Coleroon due to high flooding in Cauvery .Why not pump the water to the dry area like Palar basin

from:  appan varma
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 07:38 IST

I think this is a case of judicial overreach. Whether to undertake such an ambitious project, which would involve spending lakhs of crores of rupees is surely a policy decision. Any opinion of the Court in the contentious issue has to be be purely of recommendatory nature. If the courts start directing the executive to spend such a voluminous amount of money, it has first to enquire about the resources from which the funding of the project could be raised and the impact of such spending on the economy of the country, its indebtedness etc. This would simply be transgression into the executive function. Water is surely the basic right, so is the food, employment and energy. If this pretext is to be used, the courts might very well direct how the annual budget of the country and the five year plan has to be formulated and there would be no need for the country to have a Prime Minister or a Finance Minister.

from:  Pramod Patil
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 07:15 IST

Thanks to the author for articulating why he thinks the Supreme Court
has exceeded its brief ("The Supreme Court rides roughshod over all
this...") Yes, one may argue that what the Supreme Court has done is
not ideal. However, is the government functioning ideally? Are the
bureaucrats doing their jobs ideally? Are the politicians (those in
power and those in the opposition too) even thinking about development
and progress? The answer is an emphatic NO. There is paralysis in this
government. Under these circumstances, we should all be grateful there
is at least one institution which is prepared to force action on
developmental issues.

from:  T.Suresh
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 04:04 IST

To Sir, with respects. You are dot on line.

from:  Soundararajan Srinivasa
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 04:04 IST

The history of large, diverse Federal Unions is the constant fine-tuning of the delicate balance between the three branches of government --- in the interests of unity, justice and social harmony. Where the dynamics of multi-ethnic societies and electoral-political compulsions make State and Federal governments partisan, the Supreme Court becomes the natural and accepted arbiter in emotive, contentious issues like water rights and rights of oppressed peoples. This is true about the United States; true about India. As global warming causes the Himalayan glaciers to melt and monsoons to be erratic (its pace is controversial, but not the fact), abridging the Apex Court's role is an invitation to chaos and social discord --- leading to Naipaul's gloomy forecast of a 'thousand civil wars'.

from:  Thiru. V. Ramakrishnan
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 02:45 IST

1st of all, Honorable Supreme Court Judges must keep in mind, while one embarks on for implementing this project ,he has to cross other countries influence and other countries norms which doesn't come under the domain of Supreme Court.When we are not able to solve one water-sharing issue like Mullaperiyar dam ,how could we think of completing a project which has more than 30 threads and each thread is more complex than Mullaperiyar.So avoiding the situation of contempt notice by Supreme Court ,The Central Government must file a revision seeking petition with wider consultation from Attorney General.I am sure the Judges will think its complexity and will withdraw the time limit .

from:  Safiullah Ansari
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 01:31 IST

This just crosses the fine line of judicial activism. Supreme Court should stick to its jurisdiction set forth by the constitution. It would have been far better to clean up it's own house and adjudicate thousands of cases of far more importance pending in front of it and other high courts in a timely manner. A case in point is Bhopal Union Carbide case, Ayodhya case pending in various courts for decades. Bhopal case is a travesty of justice. This sort of unacceptable delays and lack of supervision on lower courts basically takes away any confidence the general public has left in the judiciary.

from:  Krishna Dammanna
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 01:08 IST

The article has substantiated with cogent arguments and undeniable facts what one suspected from the very beginning, when one read about the Supreme Court giving "directions" to the goverment. The judiciary should stay within the domain of deciding the legality or illegality of cases brought before it. Legislation is the domain of the Parliament and execution the domain of the goverment. When judicial activism oversteps the boundaries of the domain assigned to judiciary, it is not good for the country.

from:  Rafa
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 01:02 IST
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