The Supreme Court today directed the Karnataka government to release 4 tmc of Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu and asked the central government to file an affidavit before May 8 detailing the steps taken by it for setting up the Cauvery Management Board to implements its order on distribution of river water among four parties — Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry.
The court’s observation came on a day its deadline for the Centre to come up with a formula to divide the river waters among the four southern states ended. Appearing on behalf of the government, Attorney General KK Venugopal told the court that the draft of the Cauvery Management Board has to be approved by the Union Cabinet before submitting it to the court. He argued that since Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Karnataka to campaign for his party for the upcoming elections, and the draft, therefore, has not been approved yet.
After listening to the AG’s argument, the SC bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra asked the government to file the draft copy on or before May 8 when it will resume the hearing.
Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, who was representing Tamil Nadu I the top court, took strong exception at the AG’s submission. “This is the end of co-operative federalism and the rule of law in the country. This is the partisan attitude of the union of India to favour Karnataka,” he said. The counsel also referred to the ongoing summer and the water crisis being faced by citizens of the state.
The bench also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud then asked the Karnataka to release four TMC of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu by May 8, but later directed the state to apprise it “as to how much water can be released”.
The top court had on February 16 asked the government to formulate a method to divide the water of Cauvery river among Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry before March 29. But on March 29, the Centre filed a petition seeking more clarification and three more months’ time citing Karnataka Assembly elections. The court later reprimanded the government and asked it to file the draft of the formula by May 2.
In its order on February 16, the SC had raised 270 tmcft share of the river’s water for Karnataka by 14.75 tmcft and reduced Tamil Nadu’s share, while compensating it by allowing extraction of 10 tmcft groundwater from the river basin. The court had noted that the issue of drinking water has to be placed on a “higher pedestal”.