Apex Court clears deck for compensation to Narmada oustees
The Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the decks for monetary compensation for the oustees of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) on river Narmada in Madhya Pradesh by ordering Rs 60 lakh for each of the families which are likely to be displaced.
The apex court, which passed a slew of directions to address the grievances of 681 such families, also withdrew its proposal to set up a three-member committee of former apex court judges to look into the compensation and rehabilitation issue for the oustees of the project.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar ordered compensation of Rs 60 lakh per family for two hectares of land with an undertaking to be taken from them that they would vacate land within one month failing which the authorities would have the right to forcibly evict them.
The bench, also comprising justices N V Ramana and D Y Chandrachud, observed that the monetary compensation was considered as proposed land compensation was not feasible due to non-availability of land bank.
Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), which is leading the campaign for the oustees, was of the view that there was no good land that could have be given as compensation.
The bench observed that around 1,300 families, who have taken the money but have some dispute, can raise the demand of Rs 15 lakh which would be given after deducting money already paid to them.
The apex court also asked Gujarat government to give money to Madhya Pradesh for further distribution through grievance redressal authority headed by a retired High Court judge. The order was confined to Madhya Pradesh as the maximum oustees were from the state.
As far as Maharashtra and Gujarat were concerned, the apex court said relief and rehabilitation work has to be completed within three months.
Advocate Sanjay Parikh advanced the arguments on behalf of NBA while Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi and Additional Solicitor General P S Patwalia along with advocate C D Singh made submissions on behalf of Narmada Control Authority and Madhya Pradesh respectively.
Earlier in the day, before disposing of the application, the bench which has proposed a committee of retired Supreme Court judges V S Sirpurkar, K S Radhakrishnan and C Nagappan as its members to look into the compensation aspect, pulled up Medha Patkar-led NBA for trying to "stall" the project saying they wanted to take the government and court for "ransom". The bench observed that despite the fact that compensation to be given to the oustees of the project have been increased by almost four times, the NBA still wanted to stall it.
"You see, they (government) are giving you four times the compensation and you still want to stall it," it told Parikh.
"When we say this, you say that. When we say that, you say this. You will get what the law says. They are giving you much more. You argue your matter. We will hear it and decide the matter as per the law," the bench said.