The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has directed the government to consider and decide in three months rehabilitation issue of villagers affected by the Kishanganga hydroelectric power project in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district.
“The cabinet sub-committee or the delegated authority may hear the grievance of the displace families. The Commissioner Secretary for Relief and Rehabilitation is also to take part in the deliberations,” a division bench of Justice Ramalingam Sudhakar and Justice D S Thakur said in its order.
While the bench directed the concerned authorities to hear the affected villagers after they place their grievance by a proper representation, the authorities were asked to accord consideration and redress their grievance within three months.
In a petition villagers of Kralpora and Check in Bandipora have approached the court through advocate Altaf Mehraj, contending that J&K Government and National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) should redraft the policy of resettlement and rehabilitation for the people affected by the project in keeping with the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy-2007.
The villagers seek to quash the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy-2007 that was drafted by the NHPC and J&K Government to rehabilitate the people affected by the Kishanganga hydroelectric power project.
Counsel for the petitioners contended that in 2007, the Ministry of Rural Development Department of Land Resources formulated a National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy 2007 that provides rehabilitation and resettlement of displaced persons in relation to development of infrastructure by the State.
He submitted that the petitioners grievance is that their right to just compensation was affected by the Government by not strictly adhering to the said policy in letter and spirit.
To a query whether the affected families have received any compensation and were rehabilitated and resettled, the counsel told the court “He had no instruction at this point of time on the issue”.
“We are of the view that the factual aspect of the grievance should be at the first instance addressed by the respondents. If the grievance of displace families is justified then the appropriate authority to accord consideration in the first instance would be the sub-committee of the cabinet which has been delegated the power to examine the rehabilitation and resettlement plan for the project affected families,” the bench said.
Observing that Supreme Court in unequivocal terms has stated that courts should not embark on an issue as to whether a particular policy is correct or not, the bench held that “It is left to the discretion of the lawmakers and the administration to form policies to serve public interest at large or a group of displace people as in the present case”.
While the affected families through their counsel contended that that in keeping policy of 2007 they would be entitled to higher compensation, the State counsel pleaded that the rehabilitation and resettlement plan was framed taking into consideration inputs given by the stake holders as well the University of Kashmir.
The state counsel also stated that a substantial amount has been released and compensation has been paid to the displaced families. “However this is a fact in dispute, we are not inclined to go into this aspect of the matter as we propose to address the petitioners’ grievance in an appropriate manner,” the bench said.