The Supreme Court on Wednesday reminded Karnataka that a State’s duties are not just confined to its own people but also to fellow States in a federal democracy, effectively brushing aside the State Assembly’s resoluton to not share Cauvery water, and directed it to release 6.000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu.
A Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and U.U. Lalit ordered Karnataka to open its reservoirs on September 28 and 29 so that the 6,000 cusecs of Cauvery water can flow to Tamil Nadu on both days. It said this release of water would be adjusted in the eventure adjudication of the inter-State dispute.
The court further entrusted Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi the task of facilitating a meeting between the “Executive Heads” of the two States in the presence of a Central government authority in the next three days. Attorney General said the Centre would arrange the meeting “provided both agree to come.”
The Bench made it clear that it has asked for the meeting between the Executive Heads not because the judiciary was powerless to enforce the rule of law and make the States comply with its orders. But room for talks, the court observed, has been given with the intention to set a stage for the three State heads to iron out mutual problems in the true “spirit of a federal democracy.”
When senior advocate Fali Nariman for Karnataka objected to the release of the 6,000 cusecs in the next three days, saying it was “not possible,” the Supreme Court chose to simply bypass the September 23 Karnataka Assembly resolution. The Bench ordered that water be released by Karnataka to Tamil Nadu “despite the resolution brought on record.”
“This is a direct confrontation. Such an order cannot be passed. This is a resolution passed under the constitutional authority of both Houses of the State,” Mr. Nariman objected loudly. “Ok, so now Karnataka wants to dictate terms to the court… fine, let us have a confrontation… Look at Karnataka’s attitude, is there any point of having a meeting?” Tamil Nadu counsel and senior advocate Shekhar Naphade challenged his neighbour.
“Forget the cusecs. Tamil Nadu has come to the conclusion that no matter what Supreme Court passes, Karnataka will not obey,” Mr. Naphade added. The court scheduled the next hearing on September 30, hoping that the State may come to a mutual understanding by then. The hearing saw both States go at it hammer and tongs as the Bench struggled to broker peace.
Tamil Nadu said the Supreme Court, to save its own prestige and majesty as the nation’s highest judiciary, should stop hearing the “obstructionist, obstinate Karnataka” till it complied with every one of the three orders passed by the court in September to release water.
It blankly refused Karnataka’s initial offer to release the “arrears” in Cauvery water by November end, if possible. “I am not like a camel where you give me water at the end of the year when all my crops have been destroyed… I am simply tired of this litigation,” Mr. Naphade said. When asked by Justice Misra how it planned to give Tamil Nadu water by November end, Mr. Nariman simply replied: “By God’s will.”
At this, Mr. Naphade pointed out the “attitude” of Karnataka to the court. “That is why we are saying don’t hear them. Sir, I am willing to forget everything… but this is not just a matter of cusecs, it is the prestige of this court which is at stake here. Every order passed by you has been sought to be modified by Karnataka… Who suffers from all this obstinacy at the end… We, the State of Tamil Nadu,” Mr. Naphade submitted.