Government

Supreme Court Pulls Up Karnataka for Disobeying Orders to Release Water to Tamil Nadu

The court also reiterated its earlier order and asked Karnataka to release 6,000 cusecs of water daily from October 1 to October 6, which is when the matter will be taken up for further consideration.

A view of the Krishna Raja Sagara Dam built on the Cauvery. Credit: IANS

A view of the Krishna Raja Sagara Dam built on the Cauvery.
Credit: IANS

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday pulled up Karnataka for disobeying its order to release 6,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu for three days and warned that its continued defiance would result in earning the wrath of the court.

With senior counsel Fali Nariman informing the court of justices Dipak Misra and Uday Lalit that he was not making any submissions on behalf of Karnataka as it had failed to obey the order, the bench reminded Karnataka that, being part of the federal structure, it should rise to the occasion and not show any kind of deviancy and follow the direction till the report on the ground reality is made available to this court.

The bench described as unfortunate the defiance of Karnataka and reiterated its order passed on September 27 that it should release 6,000 cusecs of water despite the resolutions passed by the two Houses of Karnataka legislature. By not obeying the order, Karnataka in fact had created a situation where the majesty of law is dented, the judges said. Today, it directed the state to release 6,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu for six days from October 1 to 6, when the matter will be taken up again for consideration.

The bench said “We are granting this opportunity as the last chance and we repeat at the cost of repetition that we are passing this order despite the resolution passed by the Joint Houses of State Legislature of the state of Karnataka. We are sure that the state of Karnataka being a part of the federal structure of this country will rise to the occasion and not show any kind of deviancy and follow the direction till the report on the ground reality is made available to this court.”

Shekhar Naphade, senior counsel appearing for the state of Tamil Nadu, submitted that he does not intend to argue further, for any order that is passed would possibly not be obeyed by the state of Karnataka.

At the outset, attorney general (AG) Mukul Rohatgi informed the court that in the meeting of the Karnataka chief minister and the PWD minister of Tamil Nadu, chaired by the union water resources minister no consensus was reached and the impasse continues. At the meeting Karnataka insisted on inspecting the reservoirs in both states to assess ground realities, which was opposed by Tamil Nadu.

Taking note of the AG’s submission, the court directed the Centre to set up the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) on or before October 4. The bench asked the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and union territory of Puducherry to nominate their representatives to the CMB by 4 pm on Saturday to enable the Centre to set up the board by Tuesday. The bench asked the CMB to study the ground reality (in both the states) and submit a report to the court on October 6.

When the case resumed today, senior counsel Fali Nariman appearing for Karnataka placed before the court copies of the letters written by Chief Minister S. Siddaramaiah and his reply to the CM. He read out the CM’s letter which said that the state was not in a position to comply with the orders of the apex court to release water to Tamil Nadu. He wanted Mr. Nariman to apprise the court of the state’s stand.

Nariman’s stand

On his part, Nariman said since the court had issued a direction for release of water despite the resolution passed by the assembly, “we must honour the order of the court. I must therefore inform you that apart from reading your letter and my reply, we will not be able to make any submission on behalf of the state of Karnataka.”  The bench appreciated the stand taken by Nariman and said  “We must unhesitatingly state that this behoves the officer of the court in the highest tradition of the ‘Bar’”.

Referring to the defiance shown by Karnataka, the bench said “on a  plain reading of Article 144 of the Constitution, it is clear as crystal that all authorities in the territory of India are bound to act in aid of the Supreme Court. Needless to say, they are bound to obey the orders of the Supreme Court and also, if required, render assistance and aid for implementation of the order/s of this Court, but, unfortunately, the state of Karnataka is flouting the order and, in fact, creating a situation where the majesty of law is dented.”

Expressing its displeasure over the turn of events, the bench said “We would have proceeded to have taken steps for strict compliance of our order, but as we are directing the Cauvery Management Board to study the ground reality and give us a report forthwith, we reiterate our earlier direction that the state of Karnataka shall release 6000 cusecs of water from 1st October, 2016 till 6th October, 2016. The state of Karnataka should not bent upon maintaining an obstinate stand of defiance, for one knows not when the wrath of law shall fall on one.” The bench posted the matter for further hearing on October 6.

The court took on record the two letters of Karnataka CM and Nariman. In his letter, the Karnataka chief minister said “Dear Mr. Nariman, Since there are various versions as to what transpired after the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s last Order passed on 27th September, 2016, I hasten to write to you the correct position. Immediately after the order dated 27th September, 2016, in the late evening I convened an all-party meeting at Vidhan Soudha at Bangalore for the morning of 28th September, 2016, since the order passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court was imperative. At the meeting at which to the knowledge of all an audio recording was made – it was the unanimous view of all party members who attended including three Union Ministers of the Central Government, and ministers from the state of Karnataka all of whom exhorted me, as the head of government, that the will of the people of Karnataka as reflected in the unanimous Resolution passed on 23rd September, 2016, by both Houses of Legislatures in the State must be honoured. As such although the direction of their Lordships to release water for three days “despite the Resolution passed”, my government is not in a position at this juncture to release water. At the inter-state meeting called by the Union Minister for Water Resources on 29th September, 2016, at 11.30 a.m., I attended and so did the representative of the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu where we both explained our positions in writing. I pleaded that the Hon’ble Union Minister appoint an expert team to forthwith visit all the relevant areas in the basin and verify the ground realities including the acute shortage of drinking water and make recommendations. The team representing the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu vigorously opposed this. In view of the impasse, the Union Minister preferred not to take any unilateral decision. My earnest request to you is to bring all these facts to the knowledge of the Hon’ble Supreme Court.”

On his part Mr. Nariman wrote to the CM and the letter said  “I am in receipt of your letter of 29th September, 2016. Representing the State of Karnataka I will certainly read out (if permitted) your letter to the Hon’ble Court. But you must realize that all of us appearing for the state are officers of the court and since the court has issued a direction for release of water “despite the Resolution passed”, we must honour the order of the court, I must therefore inform you that apart from reading your letter and my reply we will not be able to make any submission on behalf of the State to the Hon’ble Court.”