Mullaperiyar dam case: demarcate land covered by 1886 lease, check if mega car parking is in the lease area, says Supreme Court

The court gave the Survey of India three months to complete the exercise. The order came after both Tamil Nadu and Kerala had agreed to the survey by the Survey of India

Updated - November 28, 2023 03:26 pm IST

Published - November 28, 2023 01:25 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A view of Mullaperiyar Dam on Kerala-Tamil Nadu border at Kumily, near Idukki.

A view of Mullaperiyar Dam on Kerala-Tamil Nadu border at Kumily, near Idukki. | Photo Credit: H. Vibhu

The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Survey of India to examine whether a mega car park project envisaged by Kerala near the Mullaperiyar dam area enters the property covered by the Periyar Lake Lease Agreement of October 1886.

The October 29, 1886 lease indenture was for a period of 999 years and signed between the Maharaja of Travancore and the Secretary of State for India for the Periyar irrigation works.

A Bench headed by Justice A.S. Oka asked the Survey of India to first demarcate and survey the area covered by the lease deed, and then ascertain if the construction of the car park entered into any part of the lease deed area.

The court gave the Survey of India three months to complete the exercise. The order came after both Tamil Nadu and Kerala had agreed to the survey by the Survey of India.

The Tamil Nadu government had initially approached the Supreme Court against the decision of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) allowing Kerala to go ahead with a “mega car parking” project in the water spread area of the Mullaperiyar dam.

The Chennai Bench of the tribunal had allowed the project in the area around the Periyar Tiger Reserve near the Mullaperiyar dam reservoir.

Tamil Nadu’s objections

Tamil Nadu, represented by senior advocate P. Wilson and advocate G. Umapathy, had submitted that the project was located in the area leased to Tamil Nadu. The project, which involved various supplementary construction activities, would environmentally affect the catchment area, the water spread area of the dam and consequently the waters of the reservoir, used for drinking and irrigation purposes by the people of five districts of Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu had argued that Kerala, represented by senior advocate Jaideep Gupta, had already encroached about 2.5 acres, and through this project, proposed to take over about 20 acres in the water spread area of the dam for parking the tourist vehicles and construction of reception blocks, cafeteria, sewage treatment plant, eco-shops complex, toilets, dining block, office block, road work, and road work for battery operated vehicle, developing different thematic arboretums, landscaping, etc, intended for tourism and commercial activities.

Responding to Tamil Nadu’s objections about its alleged proposal for a “mega car parking space” and other super structures in the dam area, Kerala had initially denied that the “Agreement of 1886 creates an interest in the lands and the Plaintiff State of Tamil Nadu is entitled to enjoy property to the exclusion of the lessee, ie, Defendant State (Kerala). It is also denied that the State of Tamil Nadu is in possession of the land, much less exclusive possession”.

Further, Kerala had denied that the area marked for car parking fell in the water spread area of the Mullaperiyar dam.

In a written statement filed before the Supreme Court, Kerala had reiterated that the 1886 Agreement was between the two independent sovereigns, namely Secretary of State on behalf of the British Crown and Maharaja of Travancore. This agreement did not convey any interest in the lands.

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