New Delhi: Taking a hard line with Karnataka for defying its order, the Supreme Court on Friday ordered the state to release 6,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu from 1-6 October.
The court also ordered the centre to set up the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) by 4 October.
Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi told the court the appointed board members will visit the Cauvery basin and submit a report to the apex court.
“We do not wish the wrath of law on the state," the court warned after Karnataka reiterated its stand to use Cauvery water only for drinking purposes.
Both states refused to argue the matter in court, forcing the judges to advance the setting up of CMB.
Fali S. Nariman, Karnataka’s counsel, placed chief minister Siddaramaiah’s statement explaining the state’s defiance of the judicial rulings before the court and said he had nothing more to add.
Tamil Nadu’s counsel Shekhar Naphade did not argue the case to protest Karnataka not following the earlier orders of the apex court.
A bench comprising justices Dipak Misra and U.U. Lalit slammed both states for not making an effort to resolve the impasse.
“Under the Constitution, all authorities in the country are bound to follow the apex court’s orders and Karnataka’s flouting the court’s orders has brought in a situation where the majesty of law has been dented," the court said.
On 12 September, the court asked Karnataka to release 12,000 cusecs of water a day for 7 days, revising its earlier order of 5 September to release 15,000 cusecs a day till 16 September. Both orders were complied with. However, the state did not comply with two orders of the court—given on 20 and 27 September—directing it to release 6,000 cusecs per day to Tamil Nadu from 21-27 and 28-30 September.
The court also took into account the inconclusive meeting between representatives of both states and Union water resources minister Uma Bharati.
“We oppose the move to form CMB. State government should not give its consent and stick to the resolution passed by the legislature. They should outrightly reject the Supreme Court order," Kurbur Shantakumar, president, Karnataka State Sugarcane Growers Association, told Mint on Friday. He added a farmers’ convention will be held on 5 October in Mysuru to highlight the difficulties faced by the state.
Also read: Karnataka govt declares 68 taluks in 22 districts as drought-affected
Karnataka has already announced a drought in 68 talukas, or administrative units, spread across 22 districts in the state—its second successive drought year and sixth consecutive year of deficient rainfall.
The acute shortage of water in the state has seen advisories being issued against sowing water-intensive crops.
The total area of cultivation in Karnataka has come down from 96,200 hectares (for major crops including paddy, sugarcane, ragi, maize and pulses) to 61,600 hectares, according to the state agriculture department, Mint reported on 19 September.
Sandeep Shastri, a political analyst and pro-vice chancellor of Jain University, said inter-state water disputes should not reach the judiciary as they are emotive and sensitive issues which cannot be adjudicated as right or wrong.
“It has reached a stage where Karnataka has taken a strong decision and has said it is not able to honour the order," he said and added that the Supreme Court has put itself in a “catch-22" situation with its verdicts.