‘Manmohan’s decision not to review water release order is erroneous’

The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Centre and Tamil Nadu on Karnataka’s special leave petition against the decision Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took as Chairperson of the Cauvery River Authority, refusing to review his directive that Karnataka release 9,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu from September 20 to October 15 last year.

A Bench of Justices D.K. Jain and Madan B. Lokur also directed that the matter be listed for further hearing, along with a connected matter, on February 4.

In its petition, Karnataka said the CRA, by an October 11, 2012 order, rejected as not maintainable its plea to review the September 19, 2012 directive. It argued that the order, which said “there is no provision for filing of a review petition by a State against the decision taken by the Chairperson of the Authority,” was erroneous and contrary to the scheme of the interim award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, under which the CRA was constituted.

Karnataka said the order did not take into account the ground reality in its Cauvery basin, “which is suffering from a severe drought with the inflow being short by 42 per cent when the Chairperson…” passed the September 19 order.

It argued that the CRA Chairperson had failed to note that he had the power to review or recall his orders as he exercised quasi-judicial powers while arbitrating disputes between the States arising from an interpretation or implementation of the orders of an inter-State tribunal.

In its order, the CRA had pointed to the distress situation in the Tamil Nadu part of the Cauvery basin, saying areas sown with paddy “are principally covered by the northeast monsoon, whereas the areas in Karnataka are covered entirely by the southwest monsoon.”

Karnataka said: “The failure of the southwest monsoon results in extreme distress to the areas in Karnataka, and not to the areas in Tamil Nadu. This basic feature has been missed, and it has been erroneously assumed in the decision of the Prime Minister that the southwest monsoon affects both… Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, as made clear by the following sentence in the decision: ‘In this situation, when both States are in distress, it is natural to expect that this distress would be shared among the basin States. The existing reservoirs have to be so regulated that the requirements are optimally met in both the upper and lower riparian States’.”

It said: “Since the very basis of the decision is a comparison, which is a mistake of the decision-making authority, the order has caused great prejudice to Karnataka.” “The decision of the Chairperson of the CRA is prejudicial to the interest of… Karnataka and its inhabitants…,” Karnataka said.