The apex court hears Cauvery issue on a holiday, modifies its earlier order
In an important development on the Cauvery water dispute, the Supreme Court on Monday modified its earlier order and asked Karnataka to release a reduced amount of water—just 12,000 cusecs a day. Earlier, on September 5, the apex court had asked Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs a day for 10 days. Under the modified order, Karnataka will release the reduced amount of water until September 20.
On Monday, the Karnataka government requested the apex court to suspend its earlier order directing the state to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu because, it said, the latter state “isn’t having a water crisis.” There have been reports of violent protests in Karnataka since the state government started releasing 15,000 cusecs of water daily on September 7.
Highlights of the current SC order:
- Despite its plea to suspend the September 5 order, the Supreme Court has asked Karnataka to release 12,000 cusecs of water daily until September 20 which is 3,000 cusecs less than its earlier order.
- Due to the urgency of the case, the Supreme Court heard the Cauvery issue even on a holiday.
- The apex court expressed its displeasure at the Karnataka government not implementing its order. The court observed: “Citizens and the executive of this country have to accept and obey the order of the SC unless it is modified. If the court passes an order, either comply or come for modification. People cannot take the law into their hands.”
- The dispute dates back to 1892 when an agreement was filed between the Madras Presidency and Mysore for arbitration but led to a fresh set of disputes. Later, attempts were renewed to arbitrate between the two states under the supervision of the Government of India and a second agreement was signed in 1924.
- As Kerala and Puducherry also laid claim to a share of the Cauvery water after Independence, a Fact Finding Committee was set up in 1970 to resolve the situation on the ground. The committee submitted its report in 1972 and further studies were conducted by an expert committee. The states reached an agreement in 1976. However, after a new government came to power in Tamil Nadu, it refused to give its consent to the terms of the agreement.
- Later, in 1986, the Tamil Nadu government appealed to the central government to constitute a tribunal for solving the issue under the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956. However, the tribunal was not set up until the Supreme Court took cognizance of the matter and ordered the central government to do so in 1990.
- The Cauvery Waters Tribunal was constituted on June 2, 1990. After 16 years of hearing and an interim order, the Tribunal announced its final order in 2007, allocating 419 tmc ft of water to Tamil Nadu and 270 tmc ft to Karnataka. Kerala was given 30 tmc ft and Puducherry got 7 tmc ft. The Tribunal had come to a conclusion that the total availability of water in the Cauvery basin stood at 740 tmc ft. However, both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka filed a review petition before the Tribunal.
- In 2012, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as chairman of the Cauvery River Authority, directed the Karnataka government to release 9,000 cusecs of water daily. The Supreme Court slammed the state government as it failed to comply with the order. The government offered an unconditional apology and started the release of water, leading to widespread violent protests.
- With the Karnataka government continuously failing to release the water to Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa filed an interlocutory petition in the Supreme Court in August 2016, seeking release of water as per the guidelines of the Tribunal. Announcing its verdict in the case, the Supreme Court, on September 5, directed the Karnataka government to release 15,000 cusecs of water to its neighboring state for 10 days.
- Now, the Supreme Court has modified its order and asked Karnataka to release 12,000 cusecs of water every day until September 20, 2016.
—By Abu Turab
Lead picture: Cauvery River; protest against the SC order in Karnataka (photo: UNI)