Bench says releasing 3,000 cusecs on some days and increasing the quantum on other days may not be justified

The Supreme Court on Friday disapproved of the action of the Karnataka government in releasing 3,000 cusecs to Tamil Nadu on some days and increasing the quantity over and above the stipulated 9,000 cusecs on some other days.

A Bench of Justices D.K. Jain had on September 28 directed Karnataka to comply with the direction issued by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, heading the Cauvery River Authority, to release 9,000 cusecs of water daily to Tamil Nadu from September 20 to October 15.

The Bench was hearing applications by Tamil Nadu to direct Karnataka to release 2 tmcft of water daily for 24 days till the onset of the northeast monsoon, and Karnataka seeking modification of the September 28 order.

During the resumed hearing Justice Jain after perusing the chart submitted by Karnataka on the water released on each day till now, told senior counsel Fali Nariman appearing for Karnataka: “Your decision to release 3,000 cusecs on some days and increasing the quantum cumulatively on some other days may not be justified. It might result in problems as some areas may be flooded or submerged because of the excess releases.”

Earlier Mr. Nariman told the court that the cumulative releases would show that there was no deficiency as claimed by Tamil Nadu. However, senior counsel C.S. Vaidyanathan submitted that he would demonstrate that as of today there had been a deficiency of 4 tmcft of water and Karnataka could still make up the deficit in the next three days till October 15.

Mr. Vaidyanathan drew the court’s attention to an order passed by the Cauvery Monitoring Committee on Thursday (directing Karnataka to release 8.85 tmcft of water from October 16 to 31 from its reservoirs to Tamil Nadu) and said the order of the CMC would have a bearing in the current proceedings.

Counsel told the court that Karnataka had admitted before the CMC that it had irrigated 12.5 lakh acres as against the 8.5 lakh acres permitted by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal. He said even assuming there was a deficit of 41 per cent rainfall during the southwest monsoon, Karnataka’s share on the basis of pro-rata sharing formula would be only 55 tmcft but it had already utilised 60 tmcft of water. He said he would place before the court the order of the CMC and wanted the court to defer the hearing till October 19. Accordingly the Bench posted the matter for further hearing on October 19 and permitted Karnataka to file a brief additional affidavit and rejoinder by Tamil Nadu by October 16.

Dismissed

In a related development the Bench dismissed a writ petition filed by Karnataka farmers challenging the direction given to the State by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as the head of the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) to release 9,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu from September 20 to October 15.

The Bench after hearing senior counsel Ravi Varma Kumar, appearing for Suresh and three other farmers, argued that right to drinking water was a fundamental right which could be enforced.

The Bench, however, said the writ petition was not maintainable and dismissed it.

The petitioners said the demand of Tamil Nadu to release water from Karnataka was totally uncalled for. The farmers in Tamil Nadu would get enough water during the northeast monsoon beginning from October and ending in December.

They said the decision of the Prime Minister directing Karnataka to release 9,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu till October 15 had shocked the farmers as it would affect drinking water needs of the State.