Accepting the report of the expert team of the Central Water Commission, the Supreme Court on Thursday directed Karnataka to release forthwith 2.44 tmcft of water to Tamil Nadu to save the standing crops on about one lakh acres in the Cauvery delta region.
The team visited Thanjavur, Nagapattinam and Thiruvarur on February 5.
A three-judge Bench of Justices R.M. Lodha, J. Chelameswar and Madan B. Lokur passed the order. It, however, rejected Tamil Nadu’s demand that at least 9 tmcft was required to irrigate about 6 lakh acres of standing crops, even as senior counsel for the State C.S. Vaidyanathan submitted that it was not a fair assessment by the team.
But, Justice Lodha told counsel, “We appreciate their [expert team’s] effort and work. We did not expect them to come to a precise estimate. According to you what you say should be accepted as Gospel truth and orders passed accordingly. Whatever might have been done in the past, the estimate given by Karnataka at least this time was correct.”
Justice Lodha said, “We thought if someone made a wrong statement he will have to face the consequences. You made an oral statement. This gentleman [R. Subramanian, Chairman, Cauvery Technical Cell] should have told you the correct position. We thank the expert team for completing the task at such a short time. We compliment them. Our hunch was you may require two or three tmcft of water.”
When Mr. Vaidynathan said the report was not objective as Karnataka was facing elections this year, Justice Lodha made it clear, “We are not concerned with what is happening outside the court.” Senior counsel Anil Divan, appearing for Karnataka, took objection to Mr. Vaidyanathan’s implication and said, “Tamil Nadu will not be happy even if God makes an award.”
Justice Lodha in a lighter vein said, “They will be happy if God gives them good rain.”
In a brief order, the Bench said, “Having heard the parties and taking into consideration the expert committee report, we are satisfied that the interest of justice would be met if Karnataka is directed to release 2.44 tmcft of water at Mettur forthwith.”
Rejecting the expert team’s report, Tamil Nadu said, “The officers of the State have inspected the field and ascertained the stage of the crops and reported that the crops are withering for want of water. The release of water for irrigation from the Mettur reservoir was compelled to be stopped from 22.12.2012 to conserve the available meagre storage to meet the drinking water and environmental requirements up to May/June, 2013. Hence, adequate supply could not be given for the entire area.” It reiterated that the standing crops in the three districts requiring one/ two wettings “are 299607 and 297514 areas respectively and that as per the assessment of the agricultural officers of Tamil Nadu, 9 tmcft. is required so that the yield of the crop could also be optimised.”
It said: “The view of the team of experts is wholly arbitrary and seems to be a predetermined[move] without taking into account the miseries of the poor farmers spread over the entire delta…