Expressing regret over the Supreme Court's order to refer the Mullaperiyar dam dispute with Kerala to a Constitution bench, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi on Friday voiced apprehensions that the adage 'justice delayed is justice denied' might come true.
"We first moved the Supreme Court on the Mullaperiyar issue in 1998. After a 11-year wait, we were expecting justice (verdict). But on the contrary, now there is going to be more hearing following the latest decision. We cannot but regret this," he said in a statement.
"We don't know where to appeal about the possibility of the saying justice delayed, justice denied coming true," he said.
The two states are at loggerheads over the dam. Kerala has been insisting on construction of a new dam to replace the existing structure, which Tamil Nadu is against.
Karunanidhi said he did not intend to comment on a court decision but recalled Kerala government's legislation in 2006 apparently aimed at circumventing the apex court's verdict in favour of Tamil Nadu to store water at 142 ft from 136 ft in the 113 year-old dam.
The Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act, passed about 15 days after the verdict, vested the state government with powers to have complete control over dams in the state.
"Is it acceptable that a state can pass such a legislation? What action was taken by the Supreme Court against Kerala for passing such a legislation in conflict of its order," he asked.
"One cannot help asking why the Supreme Court takes no cognisance of a state passing legislation against its orders. Moreover, the court also allows their prayer to refer the case to a Constitution bench," Karunanidhi added.
He said Tamil Nadu's counsel had given his consent to the case being referred to the Constitution bench only after raising initial objections.
The apex court's decision to refer the case to the bench followed after senior counsel K Parasaran for Tamil Nadu and Rajeev Dhawan for Kerala agreed that the issue involved delicate interpretation of Constitutional law.
In February 2006, the Supreme Court had allowed Tamil Nadu to increase the water level from 136 ft to 142 ft, soon after which the Kerala assembly passed the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act, vesting with itself the powers to restrict the water level to 136 ft.
Kerala, which has cited 'weakness' of the dam to justify construction of a new dam, had recently received the Centre's approval to undertake preliminary survey for the new dam. Tamil Nadu had moved the apex court seeking a stay on the survey but the plea was rejected.