The Karnataka government’s move to get the court to suspend its order on releasing Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu backfired on Monday, with the Supreme Court ordering the state to release an additional 40,000 cusecs water to its neighbour.
A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Uday U Lalit modified its September 5 order and directed Karnataka to release 12,000 cusecs of water per day to Tamil Nadu till September 20. The previous order had stipulated 15,000 cusecs every day for the next 10 days. The water to be released works out to be more than the amount ordered previously.
On Monday, Karnataka submitted that it had already released more than 84,000 cusecs. Therefore, by virtue of the modified order, it would end up giving an additional 1,08,000 cusecs water, making it a total of 1,92,000 cusecs, whereas the first order obligated it to release only 1,50,000 cusecs.
This error in calculation dawned upon the lawyers for Karnataka a few minutes after the order was passed in their presence and they rushed to the bench, but the court declined another plea to modify its order. The bench fixed September 20 for the next hearing.
Earlier, the bench had rejected a plea by the Karnataka government to suspend its order last week and reproached it for citing law and order problems in seeking the suspension. The court took strong exception to the tenor of the application moved by Karnataka and said that “agitation in spontaneity or propelled by some motivation or galvanised by any kind of catalystic component, can never form the foundation for seeking modification of an order”.
The bench reminded the Karnataka government that it is the executive’s obligation to see that the order is complied with in letter and spirit. “Concept of deviancy has no room; and disobedience has no space. The citizens cannot become law unto themselves. When a court of law passes an order, it is the sacred duty of the citizens to obey the same,” it said.
Appearing for Karnataka, senior advocate Fali S Nariman expressed regret over the state’s affidavit and sought direction to keep the September 5 order in abeyance. He submitted that the state has so far released 84,168 cusecs despite problems. The state would not be able to sustain the needs of its drinking water, said Nariman, adding that Tamil Nadu faced no agony since there is a mismatch between the demand and use of water by the state.
Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, representing Tamil Nadu, contended there is an attempt to deny what is due to the state. “The Cauvery tribunal award is clear, if there is deficit it has to be proportionate but they (Karnataka) want to appropriate water unilaterally,” he said.
Naphade submitted that Karnataka did not supply the water due to the state for the months of June, July and August.
The bench also found favour with Nephade’s contention that the law and order situation can never be a ground for keeping the order of the court in abeyance or modifying it.