New Delhi/Bangalore: The Supreme Court Thursday directed Karnataka to “forthwith” release 2.44 tmc (thousand million cubic feet) of Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu for irrigating its standing crops but the state said it would explore all options.
A bench of Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice J.Chelameswar and Justice Madan B. Lokur said Karnataka would release the water forthwith.
However, Karnataka was not moved.
“We will not release the water in a hurry and will explore all options,” Water Resources Minister Basavaraj Bommai told the Karnataka assembly in Bangalore soon after the apex court order.
Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar told the house that “it (directive to release water forthwith) is a matter of serious concern”.
Later, Shettar and Bommai flew to New Delhi to consult legal experts on whether the state can approach the apex court to withdraw or modify its directive as Karnataka too was facing severe water shortage.
Shettar and Bommai told the house that in the past the Supreme Court directives were accompanied by a schedule to release the water over a period of time.
“This time the order is for forthwith release and this is of grave concern,” Bommai said as opposition Congress and Janata Dal-Secular members demanded that the state government take all steps to get the directive rescinded.
Both Shettar and Bommai refuted the opposition charge that the Bharatiya Janata Party government had failed to provide to the Supreme Court full details of the grave shortage of water the state was facing following failure of monsoon.
The apex court order came after it received the expert committee report, following its visite to the Tamil Nadu part of the Cauvery delta basin, that 2.44 tmc water be released for the standing crop.
The apex court Feb 4 directed the chairman of the Central Water Commission to constitute a three-member expert committee to visit the area.
Appearing for Tamil Nadu, senior counsel C.S. Vaidyanathan objected to the expert committee report, saying that it was not based on objective facts.
“They have not covered even 10 percent of the area which has the standing crop. They could not have covered the entire area in one day,” he contended.
Brushing aside Tamil Nadu’s objections, the court said: “According to you, whatever you say should be accepted as gospel truth and the order be passed accordingly.”
“We did not expect them (the expert committee) to come to a precise conclusion by surveying the area inch by inch,” Justice Lodha said.
Unimpressed by the submission by Vaidyanathan, Justice Lodha said that in 20 years as a judge he has not come across an instance when the report of an expert committee has not come in for criticism.
Tamil Nadu came in for another rebuff when in response to a submission by Vaidyanathan that “this is an election year in Karnataka”, Justice Lodha said: “This is something that is outside the court.”
Senior counsel Anil Divan, appearing for Karnataka, also took exception to this point by Vaidyanathan, saying Tamil Nadu counsel could not attribute malafide intent and politics at the bar.
As Divan said that nothing would make Tamil Nadu happy, Justice Lodha said: “Tamil Nadu will be happy if God gives them good rains.”
Appearing for Tamil Nadu earlier this week, Vaidvanathan sought nine TMC of water for the state’s standing crops spread over six lakh hectares of land.
He said one-third of the crops spread over three lakh hectares of land had perished due to drought and the remaining crop in six lakh hectares area needed to be irrigated twice to save it.
Senior counsel Fali Nariman, appearing for Karnataka, contended that 40 percent of standing crops had been harvested and the rest was about to be harvested. Thus, Tamil Nadu needed no water for irrigation.