Hand over commission report to MP government, SC tells HC

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Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh), April 1 (IANS) The Supreme Court has directed the Madhya Pradesh High Court not to even open the commission report on relief and rehabilitation work undertaken by the state government with regard to the Sardar Sarovar Narmada project.

The high court should instead hand over the voluminous report of the Justice S.S. Jha Commission – which the high court appointed in 2008 – to the Madhya Pradesh government within 10 days, the apex court’s March 30 directive said.

The apex court said the state government should act upon the report in case it finds wrong-doings during the relief and rehabilitation task and submit an action-taken report to the Supreme Court within six weeks.

Thereafter, the case will proceed in the apex court.

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The Supreme Court directions in the case came on a petition filed by the state government to seek custody of the Jha Commission report submitted recently to the high court.

The Madhya Pradesh government did not challenge the setting up of the commission by the high court following a petition by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), which has been fighting for the livelihood rights of the people affected by the project.

The commission probed the serious corruption charges, which the NBA levelled in its original petition, during relief to and rehabilitation of thousands of people facing submergence of their habitats and property due to the multi-state Sardar Sarovar project.

On February 16, the high court rejected the Madhya Pradesh government’s demand to hand over the commission report for placing it before the assembly.

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The high court instead ordered that the report should be given to all parties concerned, including the NBA, maintaining that it (high court) had constituted the commission of inquiry directly and would now initiate further action in the case.

It was also not the case that the high court had directed the government to appoint an inquiry panel into the alleged massive scam in the rehabilitation work.

The high court said that a notification on the commission’s appointment dated October 8, 2008, was issued “in compliance of the High Court’s order as well as Section 3 of the (Commissions of Inquiry) Act”.

On February 19, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government moved an application in the high court that the report be not given to anyone since it had impugned the high court order before the Supreme Court and that it (government) be given one month’s time.

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The high court allowed the application and fixed the next hearing for March 30. However, the Supreme Court heard the Madhya Pradesh government’s plea on March 30, and not the high court, and upheld the government’s stand.

(Darshan Desai can be contacted at [email protected])

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