The Supreme Court brought curtains on a decade-old litigation started by the families affected by the Sardar Sarovar project on Narmada River as it directed payment of final compensation to the oustees, also paving way for the dam to operate at its full capacity.
A bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar ordered payment of Rs 60 lakh each to 681 families in Madhya Pradesh who did not receive compensation towards purchase of land in lieu of the property they lost under the acquisition proceedings for the project.
Two months time was given to the government to make the payment and a deadline of July 31 was fixed for the families to vacate the area. If they fail to do so, the authorities can resort to evict them, the court said.
“You cannot take everybody for ransom. You are not letting the project come up. When they offer you land, you don’t want it,” the bench told the counsel representing Narmada Bachao Aandolan (NBA).
The association, fighting for the affected families, had moved the top court in 2014 stating the relief and rehabilitation work adopted by MP government was not in terms of the SC’s earlier order.
NBA wanted the court to stop the installation of gates upto full dam heights until the government rehabilitated all those whose lands would get submerged once the dam operates fully. SC also ordered a payment of Rs 15 lakh each to 1358 families, who had accepted the compensation earlier.
“They need to be further compensated so as to alleviate their hardship and enable them to purchase alternative land,” the bench said. However, the court clarified the amount already received by them shall be deducted from this money.
Advocate CD Singh, who appeared for the MP government, told HT that as per the order the government will deposit the money to Narmada Valley Development Authority, which will further give it to Grievance Redressal Authority for the distribution. Exercising its extraordinary powers vested to it under the constitution, the bench also put an end to all civil and criminal cases that arose after a Commission gave its report on the rehabilitation of the families.
“We are doing this to render complete justice to the parties,” the bench said.
Singh said there were 4998 project affected families, out of which 4,774 had opted for special rehabilitation package under which they were paid money to purchase land.