J&K government had shelved the project in 2006
GN Bureau | February 3, 2010
A fresh water row may erupt between India and Pakistan over 1200MW Sawalkot hydro-power project on the Chenab river in Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir. The project has been revived by the J&K high court, which quashed a state cabinet decision of 2006 to shelve it.
Pakistan is objecting to two other hydroelectric projects on the river at Baglihar and Salal. The Sawalkot project involves two units of 600 MW each to be set up on the run-of-the-river scheme.
A single-judge bench of J P Singh on Monday held as ultra virus the government's decision to shelve the project on the ground of alleged bungling in awarding contracts to a consortium comprising SPAS of Norway, HCC of India and Ozaltin of Turkey. In the 62-page order the court held the cabinet decision as ultra virus as the complainant was himself member of the cabinet.
The Sawalakot consortium was entrusted with designing, executing and completing the project at a cost of Euro 763 Million. A formal contract was signed in presence of the then visiting Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah on April 21, 2001, in Delhi.
The consortium was duly approved by three successive cabinets of state in April 2001, December 2005 and April 2006, as well as approved by the Power Development Corporation, the court order said.
It was pointed out that the presence of the complainant minister in the cabinet sub-committee had genuinely raised eye-brows regarding his biased approach in discharging the functions. “Under these circumstances a presumption arises that not only would the minister have influenced the mind of other members of the committee, but that he would have certainly done all he could possibly do to project his view point when there was none in the committee to speak for and on behalf of the petitioners,” the court order said.
The government counsel had pleaded that the project was shelved for not getting funds from the Power Finance Corporation and the bidding for the project was not as per the Indian government's guidelines. The court said the Indian government's guidelines did not apply to the project.
The consortium got a stay from the high court when the previous J&K government led by Ghulam Nabi Azad in 2006 cancelled its contract and tried to float fresh global tenders for the project, downstream the 450 MW Baglihar hydel project and about 25 km upstream the 390 MW Salal hydroelectric power project.
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