The Supreme Court Thursday dismissed a plea filed by an oustee of the Sardar Sarovar project seeking enhanced compensation proportionate to the land she lost, ruling the cap of Rs 60 lakh per family that it had fixed invoking Article 142 of the Constitution cannot be modified.
Article 142 empowers the Supreme Court to pass such orders as are necessary for doing “complete justice” in a matter pending before it.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud was hearing a petition filed by a woman oustee of the project on the Narmada river who had lost 4.293 hectares.
According to her counsel Sanjay Parikh, the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal had fixed her entitlement for compensation on the loss of 4.293 hectares.
He contended the Tribunal’s award is binding and has to be executed. However, she received just Rs 60 lakh, in accordance with the ceiling announced by the apex court instead of the Rs 1.28 crore to which she claimed she was entitled given the land holding she lost.
The bench, also comprising Justices Hima Kohli and P S Narasimha, said once the final settlement package has been determined as Rs 60 lakh per family, the modification would not hold as it would be a substantive review of the order of the Supreme Court.
“The directions issued by this court under Article 142 of the Constitution are not susceptible to clarification or modification in this application. We find no merit in this application, accordingly, the application is dismissed,” the bench said.
Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Centre, stated that the 2017 order was passed under Article 142 and a modification or clarification order cannot be passed as that would indeed be a substantive review of the court’s decision. The top court had on February 8, 2017 cleared the decks for monetary compensation for the oustees of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) on river Narmada in Madhya Pradesh by ordering Rs 60 lakh for each of the families likely to be displaced.
Passing a slew of directions to address the grievances of 681 such families, the apex court had ordered a compensation of Rs 60 lakh per family for a maximum of two hectares of land (Rs 30 lakh for each hectare). They were also asked to give an undertaking that they will vacate the land within one month failing which the authorities would have the right to forcibly evict them.
Earlier, the Narmada Bachao Andolan, an NGO, had told the apex court that 192 villages and one township will be affected by the project in Madhya Pradesh alone and about 45,000 affected people were yet to be rehabilitated.
The Sardar Sarovar Project oustees, including thousands of Adivasis and farmers, have been insisting on a rehabilitation package that is proportionate to the land they lost because of the project.