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Cauvery issue: Karnataka caught between rock and hard place, special legislature session convened

Unrelenting in its position, despite the fresh Supreme Court order to release 6,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu, the Karnataka Cabinet on Saturday night decided to convene a special legislature session on 3 October, the second recently, to take a call on the apex court directive.

On 27 September, the Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and UU Lalit directed Karnataka to release 6,000 cusecs to Tamil Nadu for three days, despite the resolution passed by the state legislature. This came after the Cauvery Supervisory Committee had on 19 September asked Karnataka to release 3,000 cusecs daily from 21 to 30 September, but the apex court had on 20 September doubled the quantum to 6,000 cusecs from 21 to 27 September after Tamil Nadu pressed for water to save its samba paddy crop.

File photo of CM Siddaramiah. PTI

File photo of CM Siddaramiah. PTI

Refusing to budge from its stand, a day after the Supreme Court gave the "last opportunity" to comply with its order, the Karnataka government questioned the constitution of the Cauvery Water Management Board and decided to file a review petition in this regard on Monday. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah spelled out the state's stand to reporters after an all-party meeting convened by him that concluded that the government should not release 6,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu as directed by the Supreme Court "at any cost", and to oppose the formation of the Board, said a PTI report.

According to The Indian Express, this petition would seek a review of the Supreme Court order directing the Centre to form a Cauvery Management Board as the State government of Karnataka alleges that it goes against the earlier 3 December, 2013 order postponing the formation of the Board till the civil appeal was decided. Chief Minister Siddaramiah added that Kerala and Puducherry, also riparian parties of the Cauvery Basin were not issued on the Board and that any water board should be ratified by the Parliament according to the Inter-State Water Dispute Act of 1956. It was also decided in the Cabinet meeting on Saturday that Karnataka would not nominate any member to the Board.

"We have not defied the orders of the Supreme Court... There is no willful disobedience or deliberate disobedience," Siddaramaiah said, adding the legislature session was binding on the government. Siddaramaiah said there was a demand for release of water to save standing crops in the Cauvery basin but a decision on that too had to be taken by the legislature, which had earlier decided that water should be used only for drinking purpose.

In a Times Of India report, legal experts think that the court will hold the resolution to 'willful disobedience' of its order and would call the chief minister and chief secretary before a bench for admonition. The Supreme Court could even direct the Centre to dismiss the Siddaramiah government and issue President's Rule in the state. But any allaying by the Congress on this issue would face censure from the opposition parties BJP and the Janata Dal (S) that have strongly backed the Siddaramiah government decision of not releasing water to Tamil Nadu.

Before he went into a huddle with his ministerial colleagues, Siddaramaiah held consultations with Opposition leaders at an all-party meeting on the state's next move as it suffered repeated judicial setbacks on the issue. JDS leader YSV Datta had said that the state should not release 6,000 cusecs as directed by the apex court "at any cost". "Whatever may be the consequences, we will all face it together. We are with the government," he said. He said if a situation of contempt of court was to arise, all MPs, MLAs and MLCs should submit affidavits, stating that they all be made responsible and not just the Chief Minister and the chief secretary.

Considering the wrath of the law upon contempt of court and its own position to reaffirm its authority, the Karnataka legislature will pass a modified resolution. They may release water to help farmers of both states without giving way to any kind of crisis in Bengaluru. This resolution is expected to include the concerns of the farmers in Mysuru and Mandya.

The Hindu reports that the ruling party is considering a proposal to take a commission of all 225 MLAs, 75 MLCs and MPs from the State to the President to present the ground realities in the Cauvery basin. Siddaramiah is quoted to have said that Karnataka is a victim in the dispute.

The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that it has no jurisdiction to direct it to set-up the Cauvery Management Board as it was just a recommendation of the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal and not binding on the government. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi made the submission before the bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit while mentioning the Centre's application for modification of the apex court's 30 September order that directed the constitution of the Cauvery Management Board.

Even as the Centre tried to wriggle out of its commitment to set up the board, the bench questioned Karnataka why it has not released the water.

"Have you released some water? There can be a part compliance of our order. We can understand your difficulty," it said as senior counsel Shekhar Naphade, appearing for Tamil Nadu, said Karnataka has not released any water as directed by the court.

As Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi urged the court to hear the Centre's application seeking modification of 30 September order, Naphade opposed it, asking what was the hurry as Karnataka was not complying with the court's order and will not comply at all.

Naphade told the court: "There is much more to it (Centre's application seeking modification of 30 September order) than what meets the eye. Have it on Thursday (When matter is listed for hearing) as it is their (Karnataka) is not giving water, come what may."

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Oct 03, 2016 17:38 PM

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