NATIONAL

SC Bench to hear Mullaiperiyar dam case

NEW DELHI Feb. 15. A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court will hear the two `transfer petitions' filed by the Janata Party president, Subramanian Swamy, and the Tamil Nadu Government for raising the water level in the Mullaiperiyar dam in Kerala from 136 ft to 142 ft in the first stage and later up to 152 ft.

A Bench comprising R.C. Lahoti and S.N. Phukan, while referring the two petitions (seeking transfer from the Madras High Court) to a three-judge Bench, adjourned the matter by two weeks. Meanwhile, the Bench asked the parties to file their replies and response.

An expert committee set up by the Centre pursuant to the court's direction to go into the safety aspects regarding raising the water level of the dam beyond 136 ft, in its report, recommended raising the level initially up to 142 ft.

The Centre, which accepted the report, in an affidavit said that the water level of the dam be raised initially up to 142 ft. It also said that strengthening measures suggested by the Central Water Commission and recommended by the expert committee were necessary for the safety of the dam and the Tamil Nadu Government should be allowed by the Kerala Government to execute these measures at the earliest.

In its response, the Tamil Nadu Government urged the court to issue appropriate directions to the Centre and the Kerala Government for implementing the findings of the expert committee and to permit the State to raise the water level up to 142 ft as an interim measure.

Tamil Nadu also rejected the contention of Kerala that there would be ecological consequences because of the raising of water level beyond 136 ft. It said the proposed increase in the water level would not in any way affect the tiger reserve and the apprehensions of Kerala were unfounded.

However, Kerala urged the court to reject the expert committee's "unilateral'' report as the concerns expressed by the State were not duly taken into account by the committee.

It wanted a detailed study conducted by a fresh team on the unpredictable impacts of the seismic tremors experienced in the State last year, especially in the dam area.

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