Implement Supreme Court order on Mullaiperiyar
The order of the five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice RM Loda allowing Tamil Nadu to raise the water level of the 119-year-old Mullaiperiyar dam from 136 ft to 142 ft means an additional 1,548 million cubic feet of water for drinking and irrigation purposes in five drought-prone districts of Tamil Nadu.
Farmers and PWD engineers are eagerly waiting for an executive order from Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, holidaying after a hectic election campaign at her salubrious Kodanad estate in the Nilgiris, to lower the shutters of the dam for increasing the storage level.
Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa (Photo: Media Ramu)
The court ruled the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2006, “unconstitutional in its application to and effect on the Mullaiperiyar dam.”
Kerala was restrained by a decree of permanent injunction from applying and enforcing the impugned legislation or in any matter interfering with or obstructing Tamil Nadu from increasing the water level to 142 ft.
A Division Bench of the Supreme Court in February 2006 itself permitted Tamil Nadu to raise the water level to 146 ft. The AIADMK government of Jayalalithaa failed to act. In the summer of 2006, the DMK was voted to power and M Karunanidhi became the Chief Minister.
He too would not authorise the PWD engineers to lower the shutters to raise the storage level to 142 ft even after the Supreme Court, by another order on 16 November, 2006, declined Kerala’s plea to reconsider its February ruling.
The Constitution Bench’s order of 7 May, 2014, says, “A decision which disposes of the matter by giving findings upon the facts is not open to change by legislature. A final judgment, once rendered, operates and remains in force until altered by the court in appropriate proceedings.”
In other words, Kerala’s hurriedly enacted Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act of 18 March, 2006, is invalid because the Supreme Court’s order of February operates as ‘res judicata,’ a matter that has been adjudicated and cannot be pursued further.
In spite of such unambiguous order by the apex court, the Tamil Nadu government is hesitant to implement it and wipe the tears of the people of the rain shadow districts of Madurai, Theni, Dindigul, Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram.
The AIADMK and the DMK ruling Tamil Nadu alternately since 1991 are more concerned about the plight of land sharks in Idukki district of Kerala who have grabbed more than 1,000 acres of land reclaimed from the Mullaiperiyar lake bed when the water level was decreased from 152 ft to 136 ft and developed into high end wildlife tourist resorts, following a well orchestrated scare created in 1979 that the dam was about to burst and 35 lakh people in Kottayam, Allapuzha and Ernakulam districts were in imminent danger of drowning.
Age has not diminished the strength of the dam. The Supreme Court has found it to be as good as new. Keraa has no ground to flout the court order. It is time Tamil Nadu acted.