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SCOI Report: Narmada Bachao Andolan scores legal victory over MP state on rehabilitation issue

In a significant order, the social justice bench of the Supreme Court Justice Madan Lokur and Justice UU Lalit on Monday, 28 September, dismissed an application filed by the Government of Madhya Pradesh (GoMP) / Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) seeking a ‘modification / clarification’ of the apex court’s previous judgements of 2000 and 2005, thereby denying right to land of a few thousand adult sons of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) affected farmers.

The the bench held, among other things, that the application by State of MP suffers from gross delay / laches having been filed many years after the judgements were issued (upholding the right to land of the SSP adult sons) and the rights / entitlements already accrued to the oustees in principle cannot be taken away. The bench took note of the fact that while the entitlement of most of the adult sons have already been recognized many many years ago, one set of oustees have been offered land / Special Rehabilitation Package (Rs 5.5 lakhs for 5 acres) since the judgement of 15/3/2005 of the Apex Court and another set of oustees are being denied the same; this would result in a clear violation of Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees a fundamental right to equality. Terming this “not to be good governance”, the court summarily dismissed the application.

Arguing for the oustees, advocate, Sanjay Parikh stated that besides being unmaintainable, the application is based on a gross misinterpretation of the 2011 judgement of the court, in the Omkareshwar Dam case, which is not applicable to the Sardar Sarovar oustees. He said that as per the Narmada Tribunal Award and the 2005 judgements, all adult sons are undisputably entitled to five acres of cultivable and irrigable land. He also informed the court that the NCA, R&R Sub-Group and the GRA, all three authorities concerned with the SSP oustees have already taken decisions / issued orders to the effect that the Omkareshwar judgement if not applicable on SSP and the SSP adult sons are entitled to land allotment separately.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan and all the Sardar Sarovar Project oustees have welcomed the order of the Supreme Court as an affirmation of the judgements of 2000 and 2005 of the court, and a vindication of the rights and struggle of thousands of adivasis and other farmers, who have been waiting for land-based rehabilitation since many years and many of their families have also faced unlawful submergence in the previous years.

The effect of today’s order is that all the adult sons of the Sardar Sarovar oustees would be entitled to and have to be allotted five acres of cultivable land separately. This includes hundreds of farmers who have been entangled in the fake registries scam almost 2000 oustees to be finalized by the Justice Jha Commission, 1,500 oustees who received only one instalment of cash but could not purchase land and hundreds of those who have been given uncultivable land out of the land bank. About 500 applications pending before the Grievance Redressal Authority (MP ) can also now be immediately decided in the favour of the adult sons on the basis of today’s order, according to a press release issued by the NBA

The respondents in this case were represented by Sanjay Parikh, assisted by advocate Clifton Rozario and advocate _Ninni Susan _and Medha Patkar, who is a petitioner-in-person in the connected matters. The Government of Madhya Pradesh was represented by ASG Patwalia and the NCA by ASG Tushar Mehta.

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