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SC declines to stop dam construction work till May 1

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New Delhi, Apr 17: The Supreme Court today said it would have no option but to stop the ongoing construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam if relief and rehabiliation measures to be provided to the oustees were found inadequate.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal, Mr Justice K G Balakrishnan and Mr Justice S B Sinha while adjourning the hearing to May 1, declined to stop the ongoing construction work till the next date of hearing.

The court, however, clarified that today's order shall not come in the way of the authorities including the Central Government, state governments concerned and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in their efforts to resolve the controversy in accordance with the judgment of the court in 2000 and 2005 which directed that unless and until displaced persons were rehabilitated the height of the dam would not be increased.

Senior Counsel for Gujarat Ashok Desai informed the court that the height of three blocks in the Sardar Sarovar Dam has already gone up to 114 metres.

Senior Counsel Harish Salve appearing for Madhya Pradesh, however, asserted that all displaced families have already been rehabilitated and civic amenities provided.

Mr Salve said the application filed by the Centre is violative of the federal structure of the country. He contended that the application was nothing but a prayer to the court to issue directions to follow the instructions of the Centre without questioning. Senior Counsel for Narmada Bachao Andolan Shanti Bhushan, however, emphatically pressed for immediate stopping of the ongoing construction work at the Sardar Sarovar dam. He contended that 16000 additional families shall be brought within submergence zones if the ongoing construction was not halted.

He also pleaded that progress of a segment of population cannot be permitted at the cost of weaker sections of society and such approach encouraged naxalism as the poor get the feeling that they get crushed for the betterment of the high and mighty.

Mr Bhusan heavily relied on the report of a GoM which said relief and rehabilitation measures were virtually non-existent in the affected areas and even basic civic amenities like water, electricity and schools were nowhere to be seen.

Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium also admitted that the Ministers Committee was equally and sharply divided, to which the Chief Justice remarked the division was along political lines and ''we cannot run away from this reality''.

The court directed the respondents including the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and the Centre, to file their replies within a period of one week and directed the petitioners to file rejoinders, in any, within a week thereafter and directed that the matter shall be listed before a regular bench of three judges on May 1.

UNI

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