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Sardar Sarovar Project: SC Refuses to Change Ruling Awarding Displaced Families Rs. 60 Lakh in Compensation

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Supreme Court Law Insider

Sakina Tashrifwala

Published on: September 23, 2022 at 18:17 IST

On Thursday, the Supreme Court rejected a miscellaneous application that sought clarification or modification of the order that the Apex Court had issued on February 8th, 2017, ordering the concerned agencies to pay Rs. 60 lakh to each of the 700 or so families that had been uprooted by the Sardar Sarovar Project on the river Narmada in Madhya Pradesh.

The Attorney General at the time had advised that the compensation sum be established at Rs. 45 lakhs in lieu of 2 hectares of land, but a bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, Hima Kohli, and P.S. Narasimha noted that during the hearing that resulted in the concerned decision, the Counsels for the petitioners had informed the Court that the land value in the area varied from Rs. 15-80 lakhs and came at an average suggested payment of Rs. 30 lakh.

The Apex Court, in its judgement dated 08.02.2017, had set the compensation at the rate of Rs. 60 lakhs/family as a full and final settlement, after taking into account the arguments of the parties concerned and the fact that the Water Disputes Tribunal’s award had resulted in repeated litigation.

In its order dated 08.02.2017, the Apex Court determined a comprehensive compensation scheme in accordance with Article 142.

The Bench headed by Justice Chandrachud was of the opinion that this directive is “not susceptible to clarification or modification” sought in the miscellaneous application before it.

The applicant, who was relocated as a result of the Sardar Sarovar Project, was represented by senior advocate Mr. Parikh. The NGO Narmada Bachao Andolan first submitted the petition in which the current request was made.

Mr. Parikh gave a detailed history of the events that led to the Apex Court’s decision to issue the order on February 8, 2017, in order to clearly explain his client’s complaint.

In its final ruling on December 12, 1979, the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal stated that the displaced families whose holdings were acquired for the project at a rate of 25% were entitled to the allotment of agricultural land for a minimum of 2 hectares per family, subject to the applicable state’s prescribed maximum.

The Madhya Pradesh Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, which was created in September 1989, envisioned giving the ousted households whose agricultural holdings were acquired 2 hectares of land each.

However, the same would be awarded up to a maximum of 8 hectares if more than 2 hectares were bought for the project.

The Narmada Valley Development Department issued an order on March 30, 2000, establishing the Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA) to handle complaints from those who were impacted by the project.

The Apex Court then declared the Tribunal’s award to be final and binding in an order that was issued in 2000. As a result, the Land Acquisition Officer informed the current petitioner that the land acquired was 4.293 hectares, and that the amount of compensation due was just over 5 lakhs.

The Resettlement Officer had sent the applicant a correspondence on December 26, 2005, stressing that the Rehabilitation package that will be offered/available to the application in lieu of acquisition of 4.293 hectares of land.

The applicant then received a second message informing them that they would be eligible for the distribution of 4.293 hectares of agricultural land in accordance with the instructions made by the Apex Court on March 15, 2005.

According to the Resettlement Officer’s action taken report, the applicant’s total land holding was 7.741 hectares; the affected land was 4.293 hectares, making up 55% of the applicant’s total holding; the total compensation due was Rs. 5.48 lakhs; and 4.923 hectares of land was allotted to the applicant.

The applicant stated in a January 2006 application that the land that was being offered to her was unusable for farming.

The Apex Court reached an equitable settlement for the rehabilitation of project-affected families as a result of the Sardar Sarovar Project’s implementation on February 8, 2017, after hearing a batch of applications.

The GRA issued an order in March 2017 stating that the petitioner would receive Rs. 60 lakhs in adjustment for payments already provided to her earlier in order to comply with the Apex Court’s 08.02.2017 judgement.

The petitioner submitted a request to the GRA stating that she was entitled to 4.293 hectares and hence qualified for compensation of Rs. 1.28 Crores. Per made it clear that the Apex Court’s ruling of Rs. 60 lakhs was based on a land holding of 2 hectares, when her actual holding was 4.293 hectares.

The applicant eventually filed a writ petition with the Madhya Pradesh High Court, but it was denied. She then submitted a Special Leave Petition to the Apex Court, which was later withdrawn. She afterwards submitted the current special application.

The central claim of Mr. Parikh’s defence was that the ruling of the Apex Court from February 8, 2017, which allocated Rs. 60 lakhs per household on the basis of Rs. 30 lakhs per hectare and required a minimum holding of 2 hectares, offered an equitable resolution.

So, instead of receiving compensation of Rs. 60 lakhs, the applicant, whose right was already determined to be 4.293 hectares of land, would be entitled to collect Rs. 1.28 crores.

Aishwarya Bhati, an Additional Solicitor General, disputed the assertion that the entire and final payment was determined using the rate of Rs. 30 lakhs per hectare.

She claimed that while the applicants’ attorneys had suggested this, the court’s order, issued in accordance with Article 142, called for the payment of Rs. 60 lakhs per family as a complete and final settlement to the 681 families who had not yet received compensation.

She added that the petitioner is requesting a substantive review of the ruling dated 08.02.2017 through the modification.

In agreement with the ASG’s argument, the Bench noted:

“That package is comprehensive and cannot be broken down into per hectare determination. It is full and final settlement in exercise of Article142.”