SC issues notice over enforcing Disaster Management Act

The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the central government, disaster relief agencies, the meteorological department and some states on a PIL seeking implementation of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, in “letter and spirit”.

The states that have been issued notice include Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal and the union territory of Andaman and Nicobar. Besides these states, the National Disaster Management Authority, National Disaster Response Force, and the India Meteorological Department were also issued notice.

The apex court bench headed by Justice A.K. Patnaik issued notice and tagged the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) with another pending matter, after counsel Ravi Mehrotra told the court that laws enacted by parliament should be implemented.

The non-government organisation Foundation For Restoration Of National Values, in its PIL, said: “Woeful and alarming situation and ground realities in respect of disaster management brought to the fore by the recent unfortunate and tragic event in Uttarakhand, are mirrored by the almost complete negation of the intention and avowed objectives, as envisaged by parliament, behind the enactment of the Disaster Management Act….”

 The failure to put in place “the necessary infrastructure and manpower, mobilisation and utilisation of technology, as also the all-important coordination among various stakeholders and agencies” reflects on the ineffectiveness of the National Disaster Management Authority and State Disaster Management Authorit.

(Source: IANS)

Kedarnath has become a ‘ghost town’, SC told

As Supreme Court on Friday asked the NDMA to file a status report on the rescue and relief operation in flood-devastated Uttarakhand, it was told that pilgrimage centre of Kedarnath has become a “ghost town” with scores of bodies buried under the earth brought by rain and floods.

A bench of Justice A.K.Patnaik and Justice M.Y.Eqbal was told this by the additional advocate general of Uttarakhand, as he informed the court on the steps taken by the state government on pursuance to its rescue and immediate relief operations and restore normalcy.

The Uttarakhand government in its affidavit said that the list of the missing people was being prepared and the chief secretaries of various state have been asked to provide details of the people from their states who were in Uttarakhand before and during the period when floods had hit the hill state.

The affidavit was filed by the Uttarakhand government in pursuance to the court’s July 3 order asking it to put on record that rescue operations were over and immediate relief has been provided.

The court was told that except for Kedarnath, the communication lines in the rest of the flood affected areas have been restored. The court was also informed that flood affected families have been assured free ration for three months or until they remain cut-off from rest of the state.

The Uttarakhand government told the court that mule tracks and footpaths were being restored so that supplies to villages is restored. “every effort is being made to restore normalcy”, the court was told.

The state government told the court that some people in Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri have refused to leave the place as they have said that they would leave only after the doors of their temples are closed in third week of November. However, the court was told that in case they decide to leave early, special arrangements would be made to evacuate them.

The court has given the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) two weeks time to file its affidavit.

(Source: IANS)

Help the flood hit: Supreme Court says

The Supreme Court Thursday directed the central and Uttarakhand governments to provide immediate relief to those affected by the devastating floods in the state and make arrangements for the airlifting of the stranded people.

While directing that relief must included food, drinking water, medicine and fuel, a bench of Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the relief material must be provided to the affected and stranded people without any discrimination.

Torrential rains and cloudburst over the weekend have caused widespread death and destruction in the hills of Uttarakhand, particularly around the highly revered Kedarnath shrine and a large number of people are stranded at Gangotri and Rudraprayag.

Officials have put the death toll at about 150 but unofficial sources say it could be much more.

The court direction to the central and Uttarakhand governments came in the wake of PIL seeking its direction for making available immediate necessities to nearly 3,000 people stranded at Gangotri.

Appearing for petitioner Ajay Bansal, senior counsel M.N. Krishnamani told the court that people stranded at Gangotri were not getting any relief and they were without food, drinking water, medicines, fuel and communication links.

Observing that the counsel for the respondent the central and the Uttarakhand governments were present in the court therefore there was no need for issuance of formal notice, Justice Patnaik, in his order, said: “We direct as interim measure that all the affected persons including those stranded be provided with immediate relief by the Uttarakhand government and district collectors of all the affected districts by giving them food, medicine, drinking water and all other essentials including fuel.”

The court also said: “We also direct that depending on the availability of helicopters with the government of India and the state of Uttarakhand, sufficient number of helicopters be deployed for air dropping (the relief material) and airlifting of stranded people to safer places.

“We make it clear that no discrimination shall be shown by the respondents (the centre and the Uttarakhand government) while providing relief to affected persons,” the court said when PIL petitioner Ajay Bansal told the court that some people were being airlifted after they had paid Rs.20 lakh and requisitioned exclusive helicopter service.

It said the central government and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) will provide all resources and wherewithal to the District Collectors of Uttarakhand.

“It will, however, be open to the authorities to provide immediate relief (to the people) where it is immediately required,” the court said when counsel for Uttarakhand government Rachna Srivastava told the court that more than Gangotri, the people stranded at Rudraprayag were in grave situation as there was no communication and habitation there.

Expanding the scope of the PIL petition, the court said: “Though the relief sought for in the writ petition is confined to people stranded in Gangotri, but considering the fact that various other areas are as well badly affected, we expand the scope of the writ petition to all affected areas.”

Directing the listing of the matter on Tuesday, the court asked the central and the Uttarakhand governments to file a report on the steps taken so far in pursuance to providing the relief to the affected and stranded people.


Court to hear plea against oil depot Jan 23

The Delhi High Court will hear Jan 23 a plea from villagers opposing the building of a petroleum depot near their homes in west Delhi alleging it would expose them to risks.

Appearing before Chief Justice D. Murugesan and Justice V.K. Jain, advocate Indira Unninayar demanded that the matter be heard urgently as the people of Tikri Kalan village faced danger.

According to her that after the Jan 5 fire at the Hazira plant of Indian Oil Corp in Gujarat, urgent steps needed to be taken immediately to shift the petroleum storage installation from the village.

The court had earlier issued notice to Hindustan Petroleum Corp and the National Disaster Management Authority.

The petition by Tikri Kalan villagers sought direction to government agencies not to allow the storage depot, alleging it would expose them to risks in case of fire, explosion or accident.

The villagers alleged that the petroleum company had ignored the safety norms.

According to them, the petroleum storage tanks of Hindustan Petroleum are located only 1,440 feet (440 metres) from their houses.

Accusing Hindustan Petroleum and the authorities of “merely paying lip service regarding safety”, the petition said the oil company had ignored the safety steps proposed by the M.B. Lal Committee.

The Lal Committee was set up by the petroleum and natural gas ministry to probe a fire at Indian Oil’s storage depot in Jaipur in October 2009.

Kudankulam safety steps a matter of public interest, says SC

The Supreme Court Thursday told the government not to treat as an adversarial litigation the petition seeking implementation of all safety steps before the commissioning  of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) as it concerns public interest.

A bench of Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Dipak Misra made the observation when Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman sought to counter counsel Prashant Bhushan while he was arguing the case against the loading of fuel rods in the reactor of the plant till all the 17 safety steps recommended by the expert committee were put in place.

Asking the Solicitor General to be patient, Justice Radhakrishnan observed: “It concerns the rights of the people. It is a matter of public interest (matter). We understand it.”

It also told Nariman that issues being raised by Bhushan were not piecemeal as he had contended.

The court’s response came in the course of the hearing of a petition by an IT professional, P. Sundarrajan, seeking to restrain Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) from going ahead with the loading of the fuel rods in the reactor of KNPP’s unit one.

During the last hearing Sep 13, the court had declined to pass any immediate order to restrain the government and NPCIL from going ahead with the loading of nuclear fuel rods in the reactor of the plant.

Assailing the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board’s (AERB) nod for the loading the fuel rods in KKNPP, Bhushan said that the regulatory board had made an unequivocal statement that the Tamil Nadu nuclear plant would not be commissioned without implementing the 17 recommendations of the expert committee that was set up in the wake of Fukushima nuclear power plant accident in Japan.

Now the same regulatory board says that fuel roads could be loaded in the reactor and safety recommendations could be implemented in the due course of the time, he told the court.

Mocking at the AERB for allegedly backtracking from its position before the Madras High Court, Bhushan said: “If it (safety measures) is not required, then why they should be implemented even after two years? If they (safety steps) are required to be taken, then why not before the loading of the fuel rods?”

On the government’s submission that the 17 steps were by way of abundant caution and were not pre-requisite for commissioning of the plant, Bhushan said: “In nuclear plant you have to move with more than abundant caution because nuclear accident is catastrophic.”

Bhushan also contended that the KNPP had never received the environmental impact assessment and there was no nuclear emergency management plan as envisaged by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

Questioning the way AERB was functioning – not as an independent regulatory authority but as an authority subservient to the atomic energy establishment – Bhushan referred to the Comptroller and Auditor General questioning whether the AERB was discharging the objective it was created for and should it stay on as regulatory authority.

At this, Justice Misra asked: “Can CAG comment on the constitution of an authority which legislatures empower the state to create. Can a body exist or not… can it come under the purview of the CAG.”

Responding to the observation, Bhushan said that AERB gave its nod for the loading of fuel rods under the government’s pressure. He also noted that the current AEB chief was earlier chief of the NPCIL.

Saying that it would like to hear what guarantees the government could provide on the safety steps, the court directed the listing of the PIL petition Sep 27 for further hearing.