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13 November, 2009

Madhya Pradesh High Court widens scope of Sardar Sarovar corruption inquiry

A Division Bench of the Jabalpur High Court, comprising Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice Sanjay Yadav, delivered this week another interim, but special and major order in the two-year old PIL filed by Narmada Bachao Andolan bringing to fore unprecedented corruption worth crores of rupees in the rehabilitation of thousands of families affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project.

The High Court, amending its initial interim order of August 21, 2008, ordered expansion of the scope and widening of the Terms of Inquiry of the Justice Jha Commisison.

It may be noted that by that order the court had constituted the Justice Shravan Shankar Jha Commission of Inquiry to investigate the allegations of fake land registries (in purchase of alternative land in rehabilitation) through SRP and corruption in the provision of civic amenities at the 80 R&R sites for the SSP PAFs in the state.

With the latest order, the scope of the Commission’s inquiry has been widened enormously to cover all aspects of corruption, irregularities, illegalities raised by the petitioners, including:

a) Fraudulent payment of compensation to the ineligible / fake persons and properties

b) Irregularities and corruption in house plot allotments

c) Corruption in payment of livelihood grants to the landless oustees with fake claims of purchase of productive assets

d) All cases of excluding eligible persons referred to in the various interim applications filed by the petitioner: NBA

The cases will thus cover the irregularities, illegalities, exclusion of eligible persons and inclusion of ineligible persons etc. in villages such as Chhota Barda, Khedi Piplud, Morkatta, Dhanora, Segawa, Kasravad in Badwani district, Semalda, Ekalwara and other villages in Dhar district as well as hundreds of excluded Adivasis families in the villages of Anjanwara, Bhitada, Jalsindhi, Sugat etc. in Alirajpur district.

Commission’s Report to be submitted to High Court: The Justice Jha Commsison has been asked to conduct an inquiry into all the newly added aspects and submit a report as to whether there is any prima facie material to show that any offences have been committed by the Narmada Valley Development Authority, Revenue and other departments entrusted with the task of resettlement and rehabilitation and disbursement of money to the oustees, eligible or ineligible.

GRA & NCA not capable of investigation:
The order elaborately states that the Grievance Redressal Authority, Madhya Pradesh, has only one member, instead of two, to be appointed as per the GRA’s own Notification and also that the Authority has no investigative machinery of its own and it has not been taking cognizance of corruption, irregularities, illegalities as well as grievances related to land acquisition. Hence, the claim by the state government the GRA, in its present form is either concerned or capable of investigation has been rejected by the court.

Similarly, although the Narmada Control Authority is a body authorized and empowered by the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal award (NWDTA), NCA itself has pleaded that it is incapable of taking any action against the state government in the cases under consideration.

Hence the High Court clearly entrusted the charge of inquiry and investigation of all these aspects to Justice Jha Commission, to be conducted in an independent and impartial manner. The High Court has thus amended its earlier interim orders, by invoking its powers under Article 226 of the Constitution and has “exercised the power of review, which inheres in every Court of plenary jurisdiction to prevent miscarriage of justice or to correct grave and palpable errors committed by it”.

Commission’s funds to be routed through High Court’s Registrar General
: The order has also taken cognizance of the written report by the Secretary of the Jha Commission regarding absolute lack of funds, since the amount disbursed is much less in comparison to the amount budgeted and approved, which is not sufficient even to cover the salaries of the Commission’s staff! The High Court has, therefore, directed that the budgeted financial resources for Justice Jha Commission should be placed with and routed through the Registrar General of the Court.

NBA welcomes the Order:
Shall extent full co-operation to Jha Commission: Narmada Bachao Andolan has expressed its deep sense of gratitude to Chief Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice Sanjay Yadav for this valuable judgment.

It said the petitioners are pleased with the order, which hopefully will provide justice to lakhs of people in the Sardar Sarovar affected area. The High Court, through the Chief Justice, has taken upon itself the responsibility to initiate an impartial investigation to unearth the massive misappropriation from the state exchequer, affecting the fair process of rehabilitation and the right to life and livelihood of the project-affected. NBA would extend all cooperation in this serious investigation towards exposing and addressing the vice of corruption infesting almost all the development projects in this country.

The PIL was originally filed in October 2007 and continued till October 31, 2009. Medha Patkar pleaded at length for the petitioners - displaced and affected farmers, Adivasis, labourers, potters, fish workers and others of the Narmada valley.

For details please contact
Phone: +91 9424855042, 9423965153 or 9826615504

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