ILR in Supreme Court

A writ Petition 724/1994 with the title “and Quiet Flows the Maily Yamuna” was filed in the Supreme Court during Sept. 2002 by Mr. Ranjit Kumar, Sr. Advocate (Amicus Curiae) quoting the speech of Hon’ble President of India dated 14th August 2002 where need for networking of Rivers had been mentioned and prayed for appropriate directions.  The Supreme Court directed to treat this issue as an independent Public Interest Litigation (PIL) Writ Petition (Civil) No. 512 of 2002 with cause title : “Networking of Rivers” and directed centre and states to respond. 
In the matter of above PIL on 31st October, 2002 the Court made the following order: 

Pursuant to the notice issued by this Court to all the States and the Union Territories in relation to the inter-linking of the rivers, an affidavit has been filed by the Union of India and also by the State of Tamil Nadu.  No other State or Union Territory has filed any affidavit and the  presumption, therefore, clearly is that they do not oppose the prayer made in this writ petition and it must be regarded that there is a consensus amongst all of them that there should be inter-linking of rivers in India. 

In the counter affidavit filed on behalf of the Union of India, it has, inter-alia, been stated that after Rao Committee's Report was received, the Government of India has been studying and planning for inter-linking of rivers for over two decades. It is also mentioned in this affidavit that the Ministry of Water Resources had made a representation on 5th October, 2002 before the Prime Minister on inter-linking of rivers and in that presentation the Deputy Prime Minister and other senior Ministers and officers were also present.  It was suggested that a High Level Task Force can be formed which will go into the modalities for bringing consensus among the States.  This affidavit further states that the presentation was also made to the President of India on 16th October, 2002 which also shows interest of the President of India in this project and it is in view of his broadcast to the nation on the eve of the Independence Day where emphasis was laid on inter-linking of rivers that has given rise to the filing of the present petition. 

Learned Attorney General states that a High Powered Task Force, as referred in the Affidavit of the Union of India, has not yet been formed and by the next date of hearing he should be in  a position to inform this Court with regard to the formation of the said task force as well as the decision of the said Force. The Union of India has accepted the concept of inter-linking of rivers and in the affidavit spelt out the benefits which will annure the entire project has been completed. 

The State of Tamil Nadu is the only State which has responded to the notice issued by this Court and filed an affidavit.  The said State also supports inter-linking of rivers and in its affidavit has prayed that a direction be issued to the Union of India for constituting a High Powered Committee in order to see that the project is completed in time schedule.  Alongwith affidavit the prospective plan for implementation of inter-basin water transfer proposals prepared by the National Water Development Agency in May, 2000 has been placed on record.  We are distressed to note that milestone for the perspective plan indicated in the report of the Agency shows that even though the Pre-Feasibility Reports regarding the Peninsular & Himalayan projects are already completed, the completion of the link projects ultimately will be by the year 2035 in respect of Peninsular Link Project and 2043 regarding Himalayan Link Project. 

It is difficult to appreciate that in this country with all the resources available to it, there will be a further delay of 43 years for completion of the project to which no State has any objection and whose necessity and desirability is recognised and acknowledged by the Union of India.  The project will not only give relief to the drought prone areas but will also be an effective flood control measure and would be a form of water harvesting which is being rightly propagated by the Union of India and all the State. 

Learned Attorney General states that a more realistic view will be taken and a revised programme on completion would be drawn up and be presented to the Court.  We do expect that the programme when drawn up would try and ensure that the link projects are completed within a reasonable time of not more than ten years.  We say so because recently the National Highways Projects have been undertaken and the same is nearing completion and the inter-linking of the rivers is complimentary to the state highway and the water ways which are constructed will be of immense benefit to the country as a whole. 

The report of the National Water Development Agency refers to negotiations and signing of agreements.  This aspect is also adverted to by the Union of India in its affidavit when it mentioned that consent of all the States affected by the Inter-linking of the rivers has to be obtained.  Learned Attorney General would like to consider this aspect as it is contended by Mr. Ranjit Kumar that if a legislation under Entry 56 list I of the Constitution is made, the need for the consent would not arise and the Centre would be in a position to undertake the project and complete the same within a reasonable period of time. 

It is not open to this Court to issue any direction to the Parliament to legislate but the Attorney General submits that the Government will consider this aspect and, if so advised, will bring an appropriate legislation. 

Mr. Ranjit Kumar, learned amicus has drawn our attention to River Board Act, 1956 which has been enacted by the Parliament.  Learned Attorney General would look into this in order to examine whether any further piece of legislation is necessary for bringing about the inter-linking of the rivers.

The parties are at liberty to file in Court any reports or papers containing studies in respect of the said project. To come up for further orders on 16th December, 2002. 

Upon hearing counsel on 16th December, 2002 the Court made the following order: 

Learned  Attorney General has brought to our  notice  resolution  dated 13.12.2002 passed by Ministry of  Water Resources,  Government of India, inter alia, stating that National Water Development Agency has, after carrying out detailed  studies  and investigations for preparation  of feasibility  reports  identified  30 links  and  prepared feasibility  reports of six such links.  It also notices that  various basin States have expressed divergent views about the studies and feasibility reports prepared by the said  Agency and with a view to bringing out a consensus among  the  States  and  provide  guidance  on  norms  of appraisal  of  individual  projects  and  modalities  for project funding etc.  the Central Government has set up a Task  Force details whereof are given in paras 3 & 4  of the  resolution.  Para 5 sets out the terms of reference of the said Task Force and para 8 sets out the time table for achieving the goal of inter-linking of rivers by the end of 2016.  Mr.Ranjit Kumar, learned amicus curiae, prays for a short   adjournment for filing response thereto.  List on 20th January, 2003. 

Upon hearing counsel on 20th January, 2003  Court made the following order: It would be expedient if the matter is adjourned by about three months so that the Court is in a position to know as to what progress has been made in the matter.   List the matter in the Ist weeks of May, 2003. 
Upon hearing the case on 5th May, 2003, the Hon'ble Supreme Court made the following order: 

Pursuant  to  order  dated 20th  Janury,  2003,  an   affidavit  dated  5th May, 2003 has been filed  by  Mr.BP Pandey, Deputy Commissioner, Ministry of Water Resources,      Government  of  India,  annexing thereto  the  resolution  dated  13.12.2002  constituting a Task Force, time  table   for  interlinking of rivers, other resolutions nominating  part time and full time members of the Task Force and few    other documents.  It seems that in last about four months   three  meetings  of  Task  Force have been  held  on  6th   January, 2003, 27th March, 2003 and 28th April, 2003.  In  the  last meeting the first Action Plan as per Government  Resolution was considered and adopted.  Now as per Action   Plan-I  the schedule for impelementation is 10 years from    the  start.  It stipulates that the work on the links can   be started from 2007.  It is envisaged to be completed by   say  end of 2016.  Further it envisages that the group of  Task  Force  of interlinking rivers will examine the  two schedules  and is expected to arrive at a reasonable  and   predicable   implementation  schedule  in due course.  According  to Action Plan -I the said Task Force has laid  emphasis  on  demonstrative value of starting work  on  a  link  or  two,  as  soon as  possible.   The  process  of  preparation of Detailed Project Report for an inter basin    link  need  to cover also, Detailed Environmental  Impact   Assessment,  Environmental  Management Plan and R&R  Plan   for  project affection persons.  We find no substance  in    the  apprehension that the Task Force will not  implement    the  law.   We have also no doubt that in case the  other    experts in the field provide necessary inputs to the Task Force,  it  will  give  it  due  consideration  the  same  deserves.  For  the present, we would direct posting  of   the matter after six months. 
Upon hearing the case on 10th Nov, 2003, the Hon'ble Supreme Court made the following order: 

Union of India is directed to file an affidavit placing on record up-to-date progress in the matter within a period of six weeks.  List the matters thereafter. 

Upon hearing the case on 6th Jan, 2004, the Hon'ble Supreme Court made the following order:

The Task Force of Interlinking of Rivers has filed a Progress Report which deals with various aspects.  It, inter alia, mentions that Interlinking of Rivers have two major components i.e. Himalayan Component (14 links) and Peninsular component (16 links) It further mentions that the former component i.e. Himalayan links requires an understanding with neighbouring countries like Bhutan and Nepal.  We hope that steps are being taken to have requisite discussions with the said countries.  Regarding Peninsular link, the progress report records that in respect of two links - (1) Ken - Betwa link (U.P. and M.P.) and (2)Parbati - Kalisindh - Chambal link (M.P. and Rajasthan), quick implementation is feasible in respect of the first link.   In respect of the first link, feasibility Report is stated to be complete and Central Water Commission has been asked to initiate steps for preparation of Detailed Project Report.  It is, however, not indicated as to when the said DPR is likely to be prepared.  In respect of second, the Report notes that National Water Development Agency has been directed to take necessary steps to prepare Feasibility Report by March, 2004 so as to take action for preparation of DPR thereafter.  It is stated by learned counsel appearing for Union of India that in respect of these two links the State of Madhya Pradesh and State of Rajasthan have given their consent and the discussions with State of Uttar Pradesh are at advance stage and the Feasibility Report shall be prepared once the consent is received from the State of Uttar Pradesh.  Further Progress Report may be filed by Union of India by 23rd April, 2004 and the matter shall be listed in the last week of April, 2004. 

Upon hearing the case on 26th April, 2004, the Hon'ble Supreme Court made the following order: 

Pursuant to the order dated 6th January, 2004, an affidavit by Joint Commissioner (Basin Management), Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India, dated 23rd April, 2004, has been filed.  We have perused the said affidavit which details the progress in the matter of interlinking of rivers.  Dealing with the follow up action on signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and between Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the affidavit states that the Government of Madhya Pradesh has communicated its consent to sign the MOU while the matter is under discussion with the Governments of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh and efforts are being made to sort out the differences.  With regard to the follow up action by Central Water Commission and National water Development Agency, it has been stated that the detailed project report for Ken-Betwa link is proposed be completed by Central Water Commission in thirty months.  Our attention was drawn to the time table for interlinking of rivers already filed, according to which, for completion of detailed project reports, the time stipulated was 31st December, 2006.  The feasibility report of Parbati-Kalisindh-Chambal link is stated to have been completed in March, 2004.  

In respect of putting the feasibility report on website, an affidavit be filed along with the next progress report. Prima facie we cannot contemplate any reason for the feasibility report not putting on website.  In the affidavit to be filed, the aspect of central legislation, as noticed in this Court's order dated 31st October, 2002, be also indicated. 

Further progress report and the affidavit shall be filed within four months.

List after four months”. 

Upon hearing the case on 30th August, 2004, the Hon'ble Supreme Court made the following order: 

We have perused the affidavit of Mr. M.S. Gupta, Senior Joint Commissioner (Basin Division), Ministry of Water Resources; Government of India dated 24th August, 2004 along with which progress report in the matter of interlinking of rivers has been filed. The progress report being not very clear on our query, learned Solicitor General states that the Government has taken,  in principal, decision to continue with interlinking of rivers. The matter, after comprehensive review is likely to be placed before the Cabinet after about six weeks. The report of the Standing Committee on Water Resources has been taken on record. Our attention has also been drawn by Mr. Ranjit Kumar, Amicus Curiae to the Report of the Standing Committee on Water Resources 2004-2005 inter alia stating that the committee desires that the Government to make earnest efforts to get going the interlinking of the Northern and Southern rivers under ILR Programme in a definite time schedule which, in their considered view, would save the nation from the devastating ravages of chronic droughts and floods. Be that as it may, as prayed by learned Solicitor General, we defer the matter by eight weeks. The up-to-date progress report be filed within eight weeks and the matter be listed thereafter. 
Upon hearing the case on 1st November, 2004, the Hon'ble Supreme Court made the following order: 

Pursuant to orders dated 30th  August,  2004,  a progress report in  the matter of  "Interlinking  of Rivers" has been filed in the form of an annexure (Annexure R-9) to the affidavit   of Shri  M.S.   Gupta, Senior Joint   Commissioner (Basin   Management), Ministry       of   Water   Resources. Learned   Solicitor   General   has   also brought   to   our   notice   the presentation   on   the   aspect   of   interlinking   of   rivers   which   was   made   by   the   Ministry   of  Water   Resources   in   a   high   powered   meeting,   comprising   of   the   Prime   Minister,   Union Minister   of   Finance,   Deputy   Chairman,   Planning   Commission,   Member,   Planning  Commission,   and   Member   Secretary   to   the   Prime   Minister   amongst   others. That presentation   was   made   on   11th   October,   2004. With   reference   to   the   project   reports pertaining   to link   between   Ken-Betwa   which   has   a   length   of   231   Kms.   and   the   link      between   Parbati-Kalisindh-Chambal   with   a   length   of   243   Kms.,   in   the   first   link   there  being  two States (U.P. & M.P.) and  in the second  link again  there being  two States (M.P. & Rajasthan),  it has been, inter alia, stated that the consensus group    has been asked to       intensify its efforts with a view to resolve technical issues with the State Governments and  submit   its   report   by  November,  2004.    The  presentation,   however,  stipulates    that     after the receipt  of  the report  that may be submitted by November, 2004, the Secretary (Water Resources) will hold discussions with concerned   State   Governments   followed   by   political   level   meetings   to   reach   an understanding   so   that  preparation   of  Detailed  Project Reports  (DPRs)   can  start.     It has also   been   stipulated   that   other apprehensions   of   States   will   be   addressed   at DPR   stage. The presentation has priortised the different project components for preparation of DPRs and implementation. 

In regard to involvement of environmentalists and others, this Court in its order dated   5th   May,   2003   had   directed   that   the   process   of preparation   of   DPRs   for an   inter basin link needs to cover also a detailed environmental impact assessment, environmental management   plan   and   R&R   plan   for   project   affected   persons.       An   apprehension   was expressed   at   that   stage   that   the   matters   of   environment   may   be   over   looked   in   the implementation of this project.   This Court found no substance in the apprehension that the Task Force would not implement the law.  It was observed that in case other experts in the   field   provide   necessary   inputs,   that   would   be   given   due   consideration   it   deserves. Now,   a   perusal   of   the   present   report   shows   that   it   has   been   specifically   noticed   that   a group   of   environmentalists,   social   activists   and   other   experts   will   be   constituted   by   the Ministry   of   Water   Resources   which   will   be   involved   in   the   consultative   process   for   the project. In the order dated 26th April, 2004, we had observed that, prima facie, it is not possible to contemplate any reason for the feasibility report not being put on website.   In the   Status   Report,   it   has   been   mentioned   that   the   Chiarman,   Governing   Body,   NWDA and   Secretary   (Water   Resources)   has   directed   NWDA   on   13th   October,   2004   to   take further action for putting the feasibility report   on   Ken-Betwa   Link   on   website.  For   further   consideration   the   matter   shall   be placed before the Court in the last week of January or first week of February, 2005. 

Upon hearing the case on 4th Feb, 2005, the Hon'ble Supreme Court made the following order: 

The learned counsel for the Union of India prays for four weeks' time to file the status report. Prayer is allowed and the writ petitions are adjourned. 

UPON hearing counsel the Court made the following  ORDER on 8th April 2005:
We   have   perused   the   status   report   filed   in   the   form   of   an affidavit   of   Shri   M.S.   Gupta, Senior   Joint   Commissioner   (Basin Management), Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India. 
In so far  as   Ken-Betwa   link   is   concerned,   though   the   affidavit and   the   documents accompanying   it   state   that   the   Principal Secretary,  Government   of   Uttar   Pradesh,   would   inform   the   decision   of   the Government   by   the   end   of   January,   2005,   we   are   told   by   the   learned Solicitor General that the Government of Uttar Pradesh has conveyed its consent, subject to certain conditions, in  particular the condition of funding.   The cost of preparation of the Detailed Project Report [for short,   "D.P.R."]   is   proposed   to   be   done   from   Central   funding amounting to Rupees thirty crores.   We take note of the fact that now a Memorandum  of   Understanding  is   required   to   be   signed   between  the Government of Uttar Pradesh and the Central Government. 

In so far as  Parbati-Kalisindh-Chambal  link  is  concerned,  the consensus   group headed by the Chairman, Central Water Commission, held its meeting on 2nd  November, 2004, and discussed the issues raised by   the   Governments   of   Rajasthan   and   Madhya   Pradesh   regarding Parbati-Kalisindh-Chambal  link.  The group submitted its report to the Ministry.   The   Governments   of   Rajasthan  and   Madhya  Pradesh   were asked   to   give   concurrence   for   signing   the   Memorandum   of Understanding   so   that   the   work   for   preparation   of   D.P.R.   could commence.  It seems that certain issues are still to be sorted out with the State of Rajasthan even after the inter-State meeting of Chief Secretaries held on 11th January, 2005.  We hope that the issues would be sorted out without the intervention of the Court. 

It   further  appears  that  the  feasibility  reports  of   three  other links   in   Peninsular   component,   namely   Par-Tapi   Narmada   Link, Godavari  (Polavaram)-  Krishna  (Vijayawada)  link  and   Daman  Ganga-Pinjal   link,   have   been   taken   up   for   initiating   action   for   consensus building.

Annexure   R-4   to   the   affidavit   shows   that   the   feasibility reports in respect of fourteen Peninsular component and two Himalyan components   have   been  completed.     Mr.   Prashant   Bhushan, learned counsel, submits   that  despite the   orders   of   this   Court, only   one feasibility report has been put on the   website.  The order   of the Court is clear and we direct its compliance in letter and spirit so that the feasibility reports shall be   put   up   on  the   website   soon   after  its   completion.     One of   the objects sought to be achieved is that the concerned environmentalists and others can put forth their view-point which can be considered. The   view-point   can   be   placed   before   the   Committee   of Environmentalists, social   scientists   and   other   experts   on   inter-linking which   has   been   constituted   by   the   Government   in   terms   of   Office Memorandum dated 28th December, 2004.   We feel that the Group shall also intimate and invite Mr. Ranjit Kumar, learned Amicus Curaie, by giving sufficient notice of   the meeting.     The concerned persons, above noted, can also bring their view-point before Mr. Ranjit Kumar as well.

The  Office  Memorandum  dated   29th  December,  2004   shows that the task force on inter-linking of rivers, having submitted its report, has been wound up  with effect from  31st  December, 2004  and  a special cell is constituted to look after the residuary work of the task force and for   taking   follow   up   action   on   the inter-linking   of   river  programmes under  the   Ministry  of   Water  Resources.  That special  cell  was   earlier headed  by  a  Joint  Secretary  but  now  in  terms  of  Office  Memorandum dated 15th February,2005, it has  been directed to be   headed  by the Commissioner (Project) in the said Ministry. 

It   may   also   be   noted   that   the   terms   of   reference of the Environmentalists Committee, above noted, seem   to   be   quite comprehensive   and   that   is   the   reason   we   have   directed   that   all concerned may place  their  view-point  before  the  said  Committee.    The next status report be filed within three months.

UPON hearing counsel the Court made the following Order on 8th Aug, 2005: 

Contempt Petition (C) No.163 of 2005: 

The   grievance   made   in   this   petition   is   that,   despite   repeated orders of this Court, the respondents have not put the feasibility reports on website, except the feasibility report in respect of Ken-Betwa Link project.  The orders that have been passed by this Court for putting the feasibility reports on website are dated 26th April, 2004, 1st November,  2004   and  8th  April,  2005.     The advantage   of   putting   the   said reports   on   website   has   also   been   indicated   in   the   order   dated   8th April, 2005.    With reference  to  the  orders earlier passed,  it  was directed  on 8th April, 2005,  that  feasibility reports shall be  put  on website  soon after its completion. Pursuant to the order dated 8th April, 2005, Mr.  K.  Vohra, Senior   Joint   Commissioner   (Basin   Management),   Ministry   of   Water Resources, has filed a status report in the form of an affidavit in respect of some   of   the   links.    It   is   stated   that   the   Government   of   Gujarat   has   not agreed  to put  feasibility  report on the  website  and the  response  of other concerned   State,   namely,   Maharashtra,  is   awaited.     This   is   in   respect   of Par-Tapi Narmada and Damanganga-Pinjal links.   We fail to understand, where   was   the   necessity   for   the   Government   of   India   to   ask   any   other authority or State Government for its agreement for placing the feasibility reports on website when specific orders have been passed by this Court.  If Government of India or any State had any difficulty in implementing the direction of placing the feasibility reports on website, it was open to them to approach this Court and seek further directions.   Nothing of the kind has been done by any of the parties or the Government. 

Mr. Goolam E. Vahanvati, learned Solicitor General, states that it   appears   that   the   feasibility   report   of   Parbati   Kalisindh-Chambal   link project has also been put on website recently.   At present, though we are not inclined  to take any action  as sought  for in this contempt  petition  in view of the submission of the learned Solicitor General that there was some confusion in the mind of some officers in   respect   of   the   direction   made   for   putting   the   feasibility   reports   on website,   we   direct   that   all   such   feasibility   reports,   which   are   ready   and complete,   shall   be   put   on   website   without   reference   to   any   person   or authority   and   without   any   further   delay.     This would   dispose   of   the contempt petition.


In   respect   of   Parbati   Kalisindh-Chambal   link,   the affidavit shows that the matter has already been discussed at the level of Consensus Building Group.  It is pointed out that the Chief Ministers of the States of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are expected to meet shortly and discuss various issues.  In respect of Ken-Betwa link, from the affidavit, it appears that though the Government of Madhya Pradesh has given its consent, the Government of Uttar Pradesh has not even responded.   Reference in this affidavit has been made to the letter written on 19th May, 2005.  It is stated that   the   response   from   the   State   of   Uttar   Pradesh   is   still   awaited.     The learned counsel for the State of Uttar Pradesh is present but without any instructions.     We direct   the   State   of   Uttar   Pradesh   to   cooperate   in   the matter.  For the present, we say no more.  Further, it has been brought to our notice by the learned Solicitor General that papers for convening the meeting of the Committee of Environmentalists, Social Scientists and other experts   have   been   processed   and   it   is   expected   that   a   date   for   the   said meeting will be fixed shortly of which sufficient notice would be given to Mr. Ranjit Kumar, learned Amicus Curiae. 

In   respect   of   Godavari   (Polavaram)-Krishna   (Vijayawada) Link, Damanganga-Pinjal Link and Par-Tapi Narmada Link, it has been stated in the affidavit that sixth meeting of `Consensus Group is stated to be now fixed for 23rd August, 2005