Unhappy that it did not obey Prime Minister’s order on Cauvery

The Supreme Court on Friday expressed its displeasure over Karnataka not complying with a direction issued by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, heading the Cauvery River Authority (CRA), to release 9,000 cusecs of Cauvery water daily to Tamil Nadu from September 20 to October 15.

A Bench comprising Justice D.K. Jain and Justice Madan B. Lokur told counsel V.N. Raghupathy, appearing for Karnataka: “This is an order passed by the Prime Minister. But you don’t want to comply… It is really unfortunate that nobody is prepared to listen to the Prime Minister, who is the highest executive authority. Have we reached that stage when you say to the Prime Minister, ‘you pass an order, we will not comply with it’? We are sorry for the kind of respect you have for the Prime Minister.”

The Bench directed Karnataka to comply with the CRA’s order. It issued notice to Karnataka seeking its response within a week to Tamil Nadu’s application, and a rejoinder from Tamil Nadu within a week thereafter.

Senior counsel C.S. Vaidyanathan, appearing for Tamil Nadu, told the court that the CRA had directed Karnataka on September 19 to release 9,000 cusecs from September 20, but the order was not complied with. Since Karnataka had failed to obey the order, it should be treated as constitutional breakdown, and the court should direct the Centre to invoke Article 355 or 356. He said the court might order deployment of the Army in Karnataka to ensure it complied with the order.

The court was hearing an application by Tamil Nadu to direct Karnataka to release 2 tmc ft of water daily for 24 days till the onset of the north-east monsoon. The State said it was constrained to file the application following Karnataka’s failure to release water as directed.

Mr. Justice Jain told Mr. Raghupathy, counsel for Karnataka: “What you should have done is, you should have first complied with the Prime Minister’s order. If you had faced any difficulty, you should have approached the CRA or us. You can’t say you will not comply with the Prime Minister’s order. When the Prime Minister, after considering all aspects, asks you to release 9,000 cusecs… you are not implementing it. This is really an unfortunate situation. Now, we will give you [a] direction to comply with the Prime Minister’s order.”