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SC pulls up Jaya for Cauvery letter

New Delhi, Nov. 15: After Karnataka chief minister S.M. Krishna, it was Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa who was at the receiving end at the Supreme Court today in the Cauvery water sharing dispute between the two states.

A division bench of Justices Y.K. Sabharwal and Arijit Passayat took the Tamil Nadu chief minister to task for her “objectionable” letter to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee against the Cauvery River Authority.

Jayalalithaa — in her six-page letter on November 6 — said the CRA has no powers and asserted that the “people of Tamil Nadu will lose faith in every member of the authority, including the Prime Minister, if the CRA does not function properly for the purpose for which it was created”.

The bench asked Jayalalithaa’s counsel K.K. Venugopal whether his client had faith in anyone and ordered the “insinuations” in the letter to be withdrawn within four days.

“At the outset we make it clear that we are distressed to read the contents of the letter written by the Tamil Nadu chief minister to the Prime Minister. It is unfortunate that a sort of lack of faith has been communicated in that letter against CRA in general and the Prime Minister of the country in particular,” the judges observed.

The apex court has adjourned the hearing, including fixing of punishment to Krishna for contempt of court proceedings, to November 22.

When Venugopal contended that Jayalalithaa wrote the letter not on any “legal advice” but to express her “personal anguish”, the judges shot back saying that an issue between two individuals was not something “personal”. “We want to bring to your notice that personal anguish does not matter in cases of this nature,” they said.

Venugopal replied that if expression of personal anguish over the vexed water dispute issue was found to be objectionable, Jayalalithaa would “very soon withdraw the insinuations and express confidence in the authority”.

At this, solicitor general Kirit Raval said: “My Lords, there is no water exchange now....only letter exchange.”

The court asked Raval to find out the date on which the Cauvery authority would meet next and asked the Tamil Nadu government to respond to an affidavit filed by Karnataka.

The apex court said Tamil Nadu should initiate action within four days so that the bench had definite information about the date of convening the next CRA meeting.

At the beginning of the hearings today, the judges pointed to Jayalalithaa’s letter. Pointing to Venugopal, they said: “It is a matter of distress. You have to have faith in somebody. There has to be some restraint (exercised) ... that too by the person who is the chief minister of a state.”

The judges observed that the Union government was also “partially responsible” for the exchange of letters that took place as the CRA meeting could not be convened.

Raval, for the Union government, told the court that when there was “lack of faith” on the CRA, then “it becomes difficult to proceed with the matter”.

The CRA, headed by the Prime Minister, was asked to resolve the water dispute “at the earliest” by the court on November 1. Till then, as an interim water sharing formula, the court ordered that Karnataka should release 9,000 cusecs of water daily to Tamil Nadu till November 6 and, thereafter, around 6,000 cusecs of water everyday till November 15.

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