The Kerala government has filed a plea in the Supreme Court seeking review of its May 7 verdict holding 120-year-old Mullaperiyar dam safe and allowing Tamil Nadu to raise water level to 142 feet and ultimately to 152 feet after completion of strengthening measures on the dam.
The five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha on May 7 had passed the judgement striking down a law promulgated by Kerala government declaring Mullaperiyar dam as endangered and fixing the water level at 136 feet.
The apex court had also pulled up the Kerala government for enacting a law which overruled its verdict of 2006 by which it had declared the dam safe and allowed Tamil Nadu authorities to raise the water level.
In its review petition, the Kerala Government said, “…said section 177 did not apply because neither the Federation of India was established as contemplated under section 5 nor the Indian State (Princely State) of Travancore executed any accession under the provisions of section 6 of the Act of 1935.”
“The error is due to erroneous assumption of the fact that the Federation of India was established and consequently, contracts of secretary of State devolved on Madras province under section 177,” it said.
Mullaperiyar dam is a masonry dam and was constructed pursuant to the Periyar Lake Lease Agreement of October 29, 1886 across Periyar river. The construction continued for about eight years and was completed in 1895.
The dam is situated in Thekkady district in Kerala and is owned and operated by the Tamil Nadu government. The length of the main dam is 1200 feet and top of the dam is 155 feet.
Expressing displeasure over the enactment of the law by the Kerala government to bypass its verdict, the constitution bench had said that under pretense of power, the legislature cannot neutralise the effect of the judgement.
The bench, however, had constituted a three-member committee to keep close watch on the dam’s safety and recommend measures which are necessary.
The apex court had also said Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2006 “plainly seeks to nullify the judgement of this court which is constitutionally impermissible”.
It had said that findings of Empowered Committee with elaborate analysis of reports of investigations, tests and studies lead to one and only one conclusion that there is no change in the circumstances necessitating departure from the earlier finding on safety of Mullaperiyar dam given by this court in the 2006 judgement.
As tension between the two states rose in December 2011, a two-member technical team of the apex court-appointed Empowered Committee had visited the site and concluded that recent tremors in that region did not have any impact on the dam and that it was safe.