Denying Tamil Nadu’s allegations that its officials were obstructed from accessing the Mullaperiyar dam, the Kerala government said the right of free access to the dam is not an “absolute or unqualified one.”
A counter-affidavit filed by Kerala said the “right of free access to the Mullaperiyar Dam by the officials of the State of Tamil Nadu by reference to Clause 7 of the lease deed of 1886 is not available through the Vallakadavu-Mullaperiyar forest road. Secondly, such a right of free access is not an absolute or unqualified right.”
Right of access
It said the 1886 deed for the lease of the land on which the dam and its supporting structures are situated, which is relied upon by Tamil Nadu, reserves all sovereign rights of Kerala. “Even otherwise, Kerala has necessary overriding Constitutional authority and responsibility to regulate the right of access by insisting on the production of identity cards and the necessary authorisation, both in the interest of the safety of the dam and the protection of forest, environment and wildlife,” contended the Kerala government’s affidavit, authored by the Secretary, Water Resources Department.
It said Central laws, particularly the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, imposes responsibilities on the State of Kerala to protect and preserve wildlife in sanctuaries from movements, encroachments or trespassing.
The land, leased in 1886, is a part of the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, as declared under Section 18 of the 1972 Act.