TAMIL NADU

Mullaperiyar: State told to file rejoinder in 3 weeks

J. Venkatesan

Interim plea to come up for hearing in apex court on May 7

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday granted Tamil Nadu three weeks time to file its rejoinder to the counter affidavit filed by Kerala in the application seeking deployment of Central Industrial Security Force to guard the Mullaperiyar dam.

A Bench of the Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice R.V. Raveendran, after hearing senior counsel K. Parasaran for Tamil Nadu and senior counsel Harish Salve for Kerala, directed the interim application for hearing on May 7.

Tamil Nadu filed the application in the suit, seeking a declaration that the law enacted by Kerala pursuant to the apex court judgment of February 2006 was unconstitutional and an interim application seeking CISF deployment to protect the dam from damage.

Kerala in its reply strongly opposed Tamil Nadu's plea for deployment of CISF, saying that the State police was in charge of security of the dam as well as the upstream and downstream portions of it, as all of it lies within the Kerala State.

New dam

Kerala also suggested construction of a new dam to meet the requirements of Tamil Nadu to irrigate its area while protecting the legitimate interest of the State of Kerala. "The Mullaperiyar dam, made of lime surkhi, is unsafe as the structure is not homogeneous. A new dam is feasible which can meet the legitimate requirements of Tamil Nadu while not compromising the concerns of the State of Kerala," it said.

Safety concerns

In its written submissions to the original suit, Kerala questioned the lease agreement executed between the Maharaja of Travancore and the then Government of Madras on October 29, 1886 for 999 years, saying that the lease had lapsed after January 26, 1950.

The Mullaperiyar dam constructed pursuant to the lease deed was not constructed entirely with rubble masonry in lime mortar.

Such a dam could never have been intended to remain for long years without decommissioning at some point of time. The people of Kerala living in the downstream region had raised serious apprehensions against the dam safety.

Justifying the enactment of the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2006, it said the State legislature was competent to enact the law for decommissioning the dam.

The Act, which provided for a working mechanism to deal with the problem, was perfectly valid, it said and sought dismissal of the suit and the interim application.