‘1892 Cauvery pact an unequal bargain’

Age-old dispute: Tamil Nadu has said that the agreement was preceded by a good deal of mutual consideration.

Age-old dispute: Tamil Nadu has said that the agreement was preceded by a good deal of mutual consideration.

The 1892 agreement between the erstwhile Mysore and Madras Governments was an “unconscionable bargain” to share the Cauvery river water, Karnataka told the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The submission was made before a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra, Amitava Roy and A.M. Khanwilkar on the first day of hearing of appeals filed by Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala against the final award on the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal’s decision on water sharing.

Karnataka counsel and senior advocate Fali Nariman, who opened the arguments, said both the 1892 and 1924 pacts between the then princely State of Mysore and the Madras government reflected an “inequality of bargaining power” which was “without conscience” and which could claim no validity after the birth of the Indian Constitution.

Irrigation infrastructure

Mr. Nariman submitted that the 1892 agreement, which, he said, was the parent of the 1924 pact, dictated that Mysore could not develop any irrigation infrastructure on the river without the previous consent of the Madras government. Any grievances could be addressed only through arbitration.

The same issue was addressed in 2002 before the Cauvery tribunal, when Tamil Nadu had countered that the 1892 agreement was preceded by a good deal of mutual consideration of the interests of both the Madras presidency and the Mysore State.

Tamil Nadu had in the tribunal traced the correspondence between the State of Mysore and Madras for nearly two years culminating in the agreement to the satisfaction of both the States. Mr. Nariman, for Karnataka, had even then claimed before the tribunal that Mysore could have been pressured to enter the agreement.

Tamil Nadu had in 2002 argued that the agreement was a result of a mutual realisation for a pact which would allow Mysore reasonable freedom in dealing with its irrigation works and also give Madras practical security against injury to its interests.

On January 4, the Supreme Court had asked Karnataka to continue releasing 2,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu while posting the appeals for day-to-day hearing.

The Bench had not found favour with submissions made by senior advocate Shekhar Naphade for Tamil Nadu that an interim order should be passed on the constitution of the Cauvery Management Board.

“Several years have gone by... the river is perennial but the litigation should not be,” Mr. Naphade had submitted. The Bench had agreed with Mr. Nariman, observing that its primary focus was the appeals filed by the three States.

The Supreme Court will resume hearing on the appeal on March 21.

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Printable version | May 18, 2022 1:49:08 am |