Mullaperiyar Dam Case Between Kerala and Tamil Nadu

Published on: 21 Aug, 2013
Published under: Kottayam District News

20 August 2013

The final phase of the hearing on the Mullaperiyar case between Kerala and Tamil Nadu before the Constitutional Bench of Supreme Court witnessed certain historic moments. Kerala successfully justified in the Supreme Court the law enacted by its State Legislature to prevent Tamil Nadu from raising the water level of the Mullaperiyar dam from 136 ft. to 142 ft.

Senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for Kerala, made this assertion before a five-Judge Constitution Bench comprising Justices R.M. Lodha, H.L. Dattu, C.K. Prasad, Madan B. Lokur and M.Y. Eqbal hearing the suit filed by Tamil Nadu challenging Kerala’s law.

Tamil Nadu had always taken advantage with its stand that its rights under the original 1886 agreement had crystallised into a decree of the Supreme Court in 2006 and Kerala was not entitled to take away the fruits of the decree by adopting the legislation, which was ultra vires of the Constitution. It termed untenable Kerala’s contention that Tamil Nadu had no right to store the water and that Periyar was an intra-State river.

But, during the final hearing, Salve maintained that the Agreement of 1886, entered into by the Secretary of State and the Maharaja of Travancore, lapsed on the appointed day of August 15, 1947. When the Bench pointed out that the agreement was renewed in 1970, Salve said it was not even worth a sheet of paper.

At this juncture of hearing, Justice Lodha intervened and told Salve, “If adjudication had been done by this court in 2006 on facts that the dam is safe up to 142 ft, can the Legislature take upon itself the adjudication and say the dam is not safe up to 142 ft”.

To this question from judiciary, Salve said, “It is Kerala’s case that the impugned law that relates primarily to the modification of contractual rights under an agreement, created prior to the commencement of the Constitution restricts the rights to use territory within the State of Kerala and a dam constructed within the State of Kerala would clearly be within the province of Kerala’s legislature. This would be so even if it is held that the river is an inter-State river. The legislature of the State would always have the competence to enact laws dealing with the construction of a dam or the operation and maintenance of water storage, reservoirs and the like within its territory”.


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