The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cauvery boost to Jaya, blow for Krishna in court

New Delhi, Sept. 3 (PTI): In a victory for the Jayalalithaa government, the Supreme Court today ordered Karnataka to release from its four reservoirs 1.25 tmc feet of water every day to Tamil Nadu from tomorrow.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice B.N. Kirpal, brushed aside all legal objections of the Karnataka government. “We direct Karnataka to release water from its reservoirs so as to ensure that 1.25 tmc feet of water is made available in Tamil Nadu’s Mettur reservoir everyday till a final decision is taken by the Cauvery River Authority (CRA),” the judges said.

The bench, which also comprised Justices K.G. Balakrishnan and Arijit Passayat, made it clear that the interim order, to be operative from tomorrow, “shall stand automatically superseded by the decision taken by CRA”. The body is headed by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

“The CRA is requested to finally decide the dispute between the states with regard to pro-rata sharing of water by the Cauvery river-basin states, specially in times of distress,” the bench ruled, giving the Cauvery body the authority to take the final decision.

Karnataka tried its best to avert an interim order. First, it said the quantum of water to be released should be worked out by experts. Then it tried another line of argument, asking whether it would be legal for the court to decide the issue in the interim when the Cauvery Monitoring Committee was to give a report to the river authority by September 15.

But the judges brushed aside the arguments, saying: “The legal gymnastics can wait.” The Karnataka Cabinet is meeting tomorrow to discuss the interim order.

Tamil Nadu’s counsel K.K. Venugopal contended that the kuruvai (kharif) crops had been totally destroyed because of non-release of water and, if the situation did not improve, the samba (rabi) crops would also meet the same fate.

The clinching factor in the arguments was a chart that Venugopal placed before the court. The chart indicated storage positions of the four reservoirs in Karnataka in the period from August 1 to August 31 and showed that the cumulative storage in the four reservoirs had gone up from 41.8 tmc feet to 73.4 tmc feet.

“As (the) CRA is likely to take a few more days before taking a final decision, in our view it will be appropriate if some interim arrangement is made,” the bench observed. “Taking all circumstances into consideration, and after hearing the parties and solicitor-general Harish Salve, we direct Karnataka to release water from its reservoirs so as to ensure that 1.25 tmc feet water is made available in Tamil Nadu’s Mettur reservoir everyday.”

Interestingly, when the court asked Salve what percentage of the inflow into the Karnataka reservoirs should be allowed to be released to Tamil Nadu, he maintained equi-distance from the stand of the two states. The solicitor-general said the Centre could provide the figures and statistics about the inflow and outflow, but the court should determine the quantum of water to be released.

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