On 11th January, 2022 the Madras High Court issued notice to the Centre on a case filed by Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) challenging the constitutional validity of Dam Safety Act, 2021 stating that it is against federalism and ultra vires the legislative competence of the Centre.
The Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu heard preliminary arguments by senior counsel P. Wilson for the petitioner and ordered Additional Solicitor General R. Sankaranarayanan for Centre to make sure that a counter affidavit was filed within three weeks.
S Ramalingam, the party MP representing Mayiladuthurai in the Lok Sabha, had moved the petition before the High Court.
Previously, the senior counsel P Wilson had made a request for the mentioning of the urgent petition before the bench of Acting Chief Justice (ACJ) Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice PD Audikesavalu and also sought an early hearing.
The Bench had accepted the request for an early hearing of the case and directed the Registry to list the matter for January 10.
He said the writ petition is challenging the vires of the Dam Safety Act 2021 on various grounds including the legislative competence of the Parliament to legislate the Act whereas the subject is in the State’s domain.
“The Act has effect of taking control over all major dams in the state and the Union is taking steps to constitute National Committee on dam safety and National Dam Safety Authority,” he contented.
“Entry 56 cannot be stretched to include dams and embankments exclusively within the control of the States. Parliament cannot make a declaration in relation to a subject matter of List II entries when such power is conspicuously absent in List I subjects. Power over the subject ‘interstate river and river valley’ cannot be confused with the control over dams,” the petitioner stated.
He further pointed out that the Act provided for criminal prosecution for not obeying directives issued under the legislation.
“State authorities have to face the music under Section 41 if the directions of the Union authorities are not obeyed... Bureaucrats will now be kept under fear and threat which will lead to mechanical compliance of the dictates of the Union Government.”
[Case Title - S. Ramalingam v Union of India]
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