SM Krishna Unscathed, Despite Disobeying SC Till Last Minute

New Delhi, October 28: | Updated: Oct 29 2002, 05:30am hrs
This southern tearjerker has had a happy ending. Karnataka chief minister SM Krishna hasnt lost his chair. A constitutional crisis has been averted. Even the apex court looks relieved. Specifically, punishment for the politically savvy Mr Krishna has taken a backseat.

The court has no pleasure to punish anybody, chief justice BN Kirpal observed, negating speculation that Krishnas defiance will earn him a rap. Karnataka CMs counsel Anil Divan bowed dozens of times communicating his clients unconditional apology! He confirmed the widely circulated media leak that Karnataka had released Cauvery waters early morning on Monday

Even petitioner Tamil Nadu appeared conciliatory. Its senior counsel KK Venugopal looked visibly softened. We are not for punishment. We are only interested in getting water. Our shortfall should be met, he said. In between, Mr Venugopal slipped in the observation that Karnataka is now trying to placate the court. On this solicitor-general Harish Salve told the court that the matter had indeed taken a favourable turn. Isnt Tamil Nadu, so aggrieved by Mr Krishnas contempt, now admitting that Karnataka was trying to placate the very authority it had defied

Mr Krishna had his anxious moments too. For instance, Mr Venugopal argued that since Mr Krishnas affidavit didnt explain Karnatakas non-compliance of the courts orders of September 3 and October 4, 2002, the same should not be accepted. Here, Justice BN Kirpal clarified that the affidavit had only been placed on record and was yet to be accepted. Mr Venugopal also showed his chagrin at the fact that Karnataka waited until this morning to release water to the Mettur and Biligundlu reservoirs when the last date of hearing was October 24 and the decision was taken only at a meeting convened at 9.30 pm on Sunday night.

Unprovoked by all this, Justice Kirpal counselled Karnataka that it should display a spirit of sharing. This spirit, the judge said, comes out only in testing times. When a state has plenty of water and it is giving away the excess, the spirit of sharing isnt exhibited. Justice Kirpal asked the state to maintain friendly terms with all its neighbours by sharing with them what the others needed.

The bench has asked both Karnataka and the Centre to file affidavits by November 1, the next date of hearing. Karnataka has been asked to state the exact quantum of water released as the affidavit rendering apology does not speak of it. Moreover, since the water released on Monday morning will take at least three to four days to reach the two reservoirs, the Centre has been asked to monitor and state whether the water has actually reached Tamil Nadu as also the quantum. To facilitate this, both the states have been directed to cooperate with the Centre.

A three-judge bench comprising the chief justice, justice YK Sabharwal and justice Arijit Passayat was hearing two contempt petitions filed by the Tamil Nadu government against Mr Krishna and four others for disobeying the orders of the apex court and the Cauvery River Authority headed by the Prime Minister directing the state to release 0.8 tmcft or 9000 cusecs of water per day to Tamil Nadu.