New Delhi: The tardy progress in the Rs five lakh crore river inter-linking project attracted criticism by the Supreme Court Thursday which directed the Government-appointed high-powered committee to place a status report before it within two months.
The apex court also sought the assistance of Attorney General G E Vahanvati asking him to be present on the next date of hearing to explain on the feasibility of the project.
"We want to know from the Attorney General about the feasibility of the project and also want to know what cost it will take," a bench comprising Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar said while posting the next hearing for March 4.
The bench, which in the beginning was apparently reluctant to keep the over eight-year-old matter alive, said, "It will do whatever good will be for the country but if there will be something which is not possible we will not go into it".
It was critical of the fact that though the task force for the project was set up in 2002, the progress was not upto the mark and it was also not clear as to how many years it will take to complete the interlinking of rivers which has faced opposition from certain quarters.
"Why should we keep it (matter) alive. It will take another 43 years. At the end of the day if the result is not going to come, there is no purpose of keeping it alive," the bench said.
"We are not going to give any direction," the bench said at one point during the hearing.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for social work er and environmentalist S D Sinha, opposed the project saying it was not feasible.
He said Government was proceeding on it on the assumption that it is a court-directed project.
"Let nobody be under the impression that it is a court-directed project," he submitted and added that the project is like asking to bring water from the moon.
However, this submission did not impress the bench which said "you should not come out with extreme examples".
"This is not an adversarial litigation," the bench said.
Though, it said that "prima facie, it may not be possible for us to pass any directions, it can always act as a facilitator".
Senior advocate Harish Salve, who was appearing for those in favour of the project, said it will help in ending the river dispute between various states which is quite prominent nowadays.