HC orders notice to Centre on plea against Dam Safety Act


PTI, Jan 11, 2022, 6:17 PM IST

The Madras High Court on Tuesday admitted and ordered notice on a public interest litigation (PIL) petition from the DMK, which sought to declare the recently enacted Dams Safety Act (Act 41 of 2021), as null and void.

The first bench of Acting Chief Justice M N Bhandari and Justice P D Audikesavalu ordered the issuance of notices to the the Union Ministries of Law and Justice and Jal Shakti.

When the PIL from Mayiladuthural MP D Ramalingam came up today, another DMK MP and senior advocate P Wilson submitted the Parliament had no competence to legislate laws on List II entry 17 and it was hit by the doctrine of co-operative federalism. He prayed for a direction to Additional Solicitor General R Sankaranarayanan, who was present in the court, to instruct the Union govt not to constitute any authority under the new Act, which was notified on December 14, last year.

When asked by the bench, the ASG replied that no such authority has been constituted so far.

In the petition, Wilson contended the impugned Act, hit by Article 246(3), was ex-facie unconstitutional and ultra vires of the Constitution, as the Parliament lacked legislative competence to enact the same, as the subject matter was in the State’s domain. The Act had the effect of taking control over all major dams in the state. The Union government was taking steps to constitute National Committee on Dam Safety and National Dam Safety Authority, whereupon the States would be completely deprived of the control over dams located inside and outside the states covered under the Act.

He also contended various provisions of the Act were manifestly arbitrary, discriminatory, unreasonable and hit by Art 14,19 and 21. It was, as a whole, unconstitutional and liable to be struck down. It encroached upon the exclusive legislative domain of the State, Hence, it infringed the doctrine of cooperative federalism and violated the federal structure of the Constitution which was a part of the basic structure of the Constitution.

The pith and substance of the new Act was to interfere and regulate the entire functioning of dams including its safety. A dam was nothing but a water storage unit and the power to promulgate laws on the same vested exclusively with the state legislatures as per entry 17 of List II and the Union cannot transgress into such subjects. Hence it was ab initio void, a nullity and non-est in the eyes of law, he argued.

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