Staff Reporter

`Treat agreements as void and inoperative'

Kochi: A writ petition was filed on Thursday before the Kerala High Court seeking to set aside the agreements amending the Periyar Lease Deed entered into between the Kerala Government and the Tamil Nadu Government in 1970.

The petition filed by the former Chittur MLA Krishnankutty sought to quash the agreement entered into between the two Governments on the Periyar hydroelectric scheme as well.

The petition said that the erstwhile government of Travancore and the erstwhile government of Madras entered into a lease deed dated October 29, 1886, under which certain properties in the erstwhile State of Travancore were leased out to the Governor of the erstwhile province of Madras in connection with the Periyar irrigation project.

As per the agreement, the erstwhile State of Travancore had given certain rights to the Madras government to use water of the Periyar falling within the erstwhile Travancore State for irrigation purposes.

In 1956, the State Reorganisations Act was promulgated under which certain new States, including the State of Kerala were formed. As per Section 108 of the Act, if any agreement was "subsisting" immediately before the appointed date, viz 1.1.1956, the same shall continue only if there was an agreement between the successor States by November 1, 1957, i.e. within one year from the date of formation of the new States.

Apparently, there was no agreement between the State of Kerala and the Tamil Nadu Government on continuing the 1886 agreements. No agreement was entered into by November 1, 1957.

However, ignoring these statutory provisions, it appeared that the Government of Kerala entered into an agreement on May 29, 1970, amending the Periyar Lease Deed, 1886 by incorporating certain new conditions in relation to rights of fishing.

Another agreement was also signed on the same day by which the Government of Kerala gave liberty to the State of Tamil Nadu to develop at its own cost and for their exclusive benefit hydroelectric power from the water of Periyar River.

The petitioner alleged that while signing these agreements, by the Governor of Kerala, the then Kerala Cabinet had not taken any decision to agree to the terms of the agreement.

The Cabinet headed by the then Chief Minister C. Achutha Menon never discussed the question of entering into agreements amending the Periyar Lease Deed.

In the absence of a Cabinet decision, there was no executive power which could be exercised by the Government of Kerala. As a result, the Governor could not have entered into any agreement on behalf of the Government of Kerala.

Therefore, the agreement should be treated as totally void and inoperative under various provisions of the Constitution.

Claims of Tamil Nadu

The petitioner pointed out that the claims made by the State of Tamil Nadu for the use of water stored in the Mullaperiyar dam could not be countenanced and that the Kerala State was under no obligation to abide by the terms of an agreement that was totally void.

The petition sought a direction to the State Government not to offer any facilities to Tamil Nadu in terms of the amended agreements.