New Delhi, Feb. 6: The Supreme Court today ordered Karnataka to release 4,500 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu every day till February 10, when the Cauvery River Authority is scheduled to meet.
A three-judge bench of Justices R.C. Lahoti, Y.K. Sabharwal and Arijit Passayat ruled that water sharing between the two states beyond that date would be decided at the meeting.
Criticising the chief ministers of both states for staying away from the authority’s meetings on “health grounds”, the bench said “whether there is quorum or not, the meeting would take place”. “If there were any difference of opinions amongst the chief ministers, then the Prime Minister’s say would be final and binding,” it said.
Attorney-general Soli J. Sorabjee criticised the manner in which their absence had resulted in the cancellation of the earlier two meetings of the authority.
Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa opted out of the first meeting on November 29 last year after informing the Centre through the state chief secretary that she could not attend because of being “indisposed”. The meeting was cancelled for lack of quorum.
The authority fixed a subsequent meeting for January 13, which was cancelled after the chief ministers of Pondicherry and Kerala informed the Centre they were “indisposed” and unable to attend.
“Whether the chief ministers are unwell or well, the meeting should not be cancelled. Genuine illness is one matter, My Lords, so a direction should be there that the meeting would not be cancelled for lack of quorum. It’s not some game we are playing... a serious problem of water sharing between four states,” Sorabjee said.
Earlier, the court summoned senior officials of the Cauvery River Monitoring Committee, which assists the authority. The judges retired to their chambers to hear them after Karnataka counsel Fali Nariman said it would be “embarrassing” to disclose all the details in the open. The judges agreed to “re-assemble at the courtroom to pronounce the order” after hearing what the counsels had to say in the chambers.
With Karnataka and Tamil Nadu countering each other’s claims, these officials were summoned for an expert opinion.