Both Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and A.S. Bopanna of the Supreme Court on January 10 recused from hearing a dispute among the neighbouring States of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka on the allocation of Krishna river water.
Explaining, Justice Chandrachud said both he and Justice Bopanna had had a word with each other earlier in the day and decided to withdraw from hearing the case.
Justice Chandrachud is from Maharashtra and Justice Bopanna hails from Karnataka.
Justice Chandrachud explained to the lawyers present that they had noticed that judges similarly placed like them — hailing from the States in dispute — had recused from the case .
“We do not want to be targets of invective,” Justice Chandrachud conveyed the judges’ decision.
Some of the lawyers pointed out that the court had been hearing the dispute for the past two to three years.
The Bench, however, ordered the court registry to place it before a Bench in which neither Justices Chandrachud nor Bopanna were members after getting the consent of the Chief Justice of India.
The hearing had seen verbal battles among the States, with Telangana submitting that there was no information forthcoming from Karnataka for the past 14 years about how much Krishna water it had diverted.
In turn, Karnataka had argued that a lot of water was going to waste, “flowing down into the ocean” and there was a need to harness it for irrigation and to replenish dry regions.
Karnataka had sought the vacation of a November 16, 2011, order of the Supreme Court that stopped the Centre from publishing in the Official Gazette the final order of the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal II (KWDT) pronounced in December 2010, allocating the river water to Karnataka, erstwhile Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
The KWDT had further modified its final order and report on November 29, 2013, to allot surplus water to Karnataka, Maharashtra and the erstwhile State of Andhra Pradesh while preserving the allocation of 2,130 TMC already made among them.
The publication of the tribunal order is a necessary pre-condition for its implementation.
However, following the bifurcation of unified Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh had moved the Supreme Court challenging the KWDT’s allocation of share.
Karnataka had argued that thousands of crores of its dam and irrigation projects to provide water to its parched northern areas were stalled for all these years because of the 2011 order to not publish the KWDT decisions in the Official Gazette under Section 6(1) of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act of 1956.
Karnataka had said that the dispute raised by Andhra Pradesh and Telangana was between them and did not concern it.
The court had noted that several years had elapsed since the KWDT pronounced its modified final report and order.