Supreme Court defershearing till February 4

With Karnataka sticking to its stand that it cannot spare any quantum of water to Tamil Nadu to the detriment of its drinking water requirements, the Supreme Court on Tuesday suggested to Tamil Nadu to take up the matter with the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and deferred hearing to February 4.

A Bench of Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice J. Chelameswar gave this suggestion during hearing of Tamil Nadu’s application seeking a direction to release forthwith 12 tmcft of water from Karnataka reservoirs so that it could save at least a portion of the standing crops in the Cauvery Delta of Tamil Nadu and also meet its drinking water requirements.

At the conclusion of arguments, the Bench made it clear to senior counsel Fali Nariman, appearing for Karnataka, that the State would have to release some water and “we are going to pass an order”.

Nariman’s intervention

Mr. Nariman intervened and told the Bench “you may pass an ad hoc order, but how do we convince our people.” He said, “The Cauvery Monitoring Committee had worked out a requirement which should be treated as the basis for determining the application unless overruled as provided by law by the CRA on a representation made to it by Tamil Nadu. Let them do it, we have no objection. The court can appoint an expert to determine the correctness of the requirement arrived at by the CMC.”

Senior counsel C.S. Vaidyanathan, appearing for Tamil Nadu, said, “Court intervention is necessary, how do I go to the people if no order is passed.” Then the Bench deferred hearing to February 4.

Water needs

Earlier, reading out a brief note on drinking water requirements for the State, Mr. Nariman said that for Bangalore, the requirement for the next four months of February to May would be 6 to 8 tmcft; for the four towns of Mysore, Mandya, Hassan and Tumkur, it worked out to 1.16/1.55 tmcft and for other 44 towns, the requirement would be 3.12 tmcft. The total requirement would be between 9.67 tmct and 11.67 tmcft.

When Mr. Chelameswar asked what was the entitlement for the State under the final award, Mr. Nariman said, “The figure of 17.22 tmcft arrived at by the tribunal is wrong and we have challenged this in the pending appeal, and at this stage, the ground realities have to be considered.”

Mr. Chelameswar drew Mr. Nariman’s attention to the fact that under the award, only 36 per cent of Bangalore city was covered for drinking water. However, Mr. Nariman said that the State was entitled to divert any amount of water for drinking water needs and explained how Chennai was getting Krishna water (to which we are also contributing) to meet its drinking water needs.

Mr. Chelameswar reminded Mr. Nariman: “You can’t compare the two, because Krishna water is under an agreement.”

Figures disputed

Mr. Vaidyathan, however, disputed the figures given by Mr. Nariman and said that Bangalore’s drinking water requirement for next four months would not be more than 4 tmcft and that the State could still release 6 tmcft. “If [that is] their intention; they don’t want to release any water, we can’t help it. It is an unfortunate situation that the upper riparian State will utilise all the water and not release any water to the lower riparian State and the court also cannot pass any order. Our main concern is that the CMC has no right to sit in judgment over the tribunal award and determine the drinking water requirements.”

At this juncture, Mr. Lodha suggested to Mr. Vaidyanathan: “If you want, we can request the CRA to meet; otherwise, we will take this matter up on February 4.”

The Bench asked Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to file their replies and posted the case for further hearing on February 4.

TN application

In its application, Tamil Nadu said, “The CMC without appreciating the dire need of Tamil Nadu and also considering the conduct of Karnataka, failed to give any direction to save the standing crops in Tamil Nadu, despite the fact that during the southwest monsoon period from June to September, 2012, Karnataka did not make good the shortfall in flow due to Tamil Nadu, and it had increased the area in the four major reservoirs and had also withdrawn much more quantity than prescribed in the final order.”