Panel suggests legal, legislative measures

No Need For Legislation, Will Opt For Legal Course Of Action: Taj

Greater Kashmir / ABID BASHIR
Publish Date: Oct 11 2012 12:00PM

Srinagar, Nov 9: The Legal Committee studying crucial Cabinet Sub-Committee (CSC) report on return of power projects has suggested the government to either take the fight to the court of law or terminate all agreements with the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) through a fresh legislation.
 However, the government is of the opinion that there is no need of enacting the legislation as it was ready to take on NHPC in the court of law. The LC, headed by JK’s Advocate General Muhammad Ishaq Qadri, after studying the CSC report has drawn “a preliminary conclusion” that though there were documents to prove “illegal occupation” of Uri-I power house by NHPC and other power projects but there is no such direct evidence regarding Salal.
 “We haven’t concluded our exercise yet but so far the evidences are concerned, we don’t have direct evidences regarding Salal,” Qadri told Greater Kashmir. “We have indirect evidences about the project. We believe that the case may either end up in the court of law or government has to scrap all agreements with NHPC through legislation.”
 Sources said the LC is mulling to conclude its recommendations within a couple of weeks to present the same to the government for future action. “There are various legalities involved with regard to property rights, land lease and money. The committee is studying all angles and so far it feels there are only two ways to deal with the issue — either to sue the NHPC in the court of law or the government could bring a legislation to terminate all agreements with the Corporation,” sources privy to the committee said.
 The Advocate General confirmed that after studying the CSC report it is “more likely” that the case may end up in the court of law. “It can be High Court or even Supreme Court,” Qadri said. “We will have to first send the notice to the Corporation making it clear that we want to see them in the court.”
 “We don’t need the legislation and instead will follow Punjab model. We don’t want a legislation that would become void within no time. We have a case and a very strong case to reclaim the power projects like Salal and Uri-I. We may not have documents, but there are exchange of letters between the state government and NHPC,” he said.
 The government had formed LC to study the pros and cons of 700 page CSC report which advocates return of Uri-I and Salal besides seeking back the extra amount of Rs 2650 crore paid by JK as power dues.  The CSC was headed by Finance Minister Abdur Rahim Rather and comprised ministers from both National Conference and Congress.
 The government, however, seems to be skeptical on bringing legislation in the Assembly. Minister for PHE and Irrigation, Taj Mohiuddin said there was no need to bring legislation in the State legislature seeking termination of all agreements with the NHPC. “We don’t like to see our legislation turning out to be null and void as seen in case of Punjab. But as far the LC recommendation about taking the Corporation head on in the court of law, the government is ready to use this option,” Taj said.
 He said the government is gearing up to write to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the return of projects. “If there is no response from the Prime Minister, we will proceed on the recommendations of LC. We have a strong legal case,” the PHE Minister said. He admitted that there were no direct evidences about Salal project being illegally under NHPC. “But indirect evidences were very much available. I am happy as a process has finally started and it is moving in the right direction,” he said.
 Sources said the government knew that the fight to seek back power projects from NHPC would ultimately end up in the court of law. “NHPC has already made it clear that they were just an agency appointed by the sovereign India. So JK had to gear up for a legal battle, which is being apparently advocated by the LC,” a source said.  NHPC operates four major projects in JK— 690 MWs Salal, 480 MWs Uri-I, 390 MWs Dul Hasti and 510 MWs Sewa II. According to Kashmir Centre for Social and Developmental Studies (KCSDS), a Civil Society, the Corporation earns Rs 5000 Crore alone from the projects in JK annually.