Karnataka’s fight for drought relief: Union government tells Supreme Court it will decide in a week

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah called it a win for the state while thanking the Supreme Court for intervening.

BySouth First Desk

Published Apr 22, 2024 | 2:19 PMUpdatedApr 22, 2024 | 2:26 PM

Karnataka's fight for drought relief Union government tells Supreme Court it will decide in a week

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, on Monday, 22 April, thanked the intervention of the Supreme Court after the Union government told the court it had received the Election Commission’s green signal to expedite the disbursal of drought relief funds to Karnataka.

The Election Commission’s clearance is necessary because the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is in force due to the general elections currently underway.

Attorney General (AG) R Venkataramani informed the Bench of Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta that the final decision would be taken within a week.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Karnataka, raised no issue following the government’s confident statement before the Court. The next hearing is in the coming week.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah immediately expressed gratitude towards the apex court.

“Thanks to the intervention of the Hon. Supreme Court, the Central Government, which had delayed providing drought relief funds to the farmers of Karnataka, has agreed to make a decision within this week.” the chief minister wrote on X.

“Karnataka was forced to file a writ petition against the Central Government in court seeking drought relief funds, as the Central Government had not made a decision on our memorandum, which was submitted in September 2023,” he added.

“This is a milestone and a success in our long fight to secure justice and relief for the people of Karnataka,” Siddaramaiah said.

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The hearing

The Supreme Court was hearing the petition filed by the Karnataka government seeking to direct the Union government to release the drought relief funds to the state.

The AG informed the court that no argument was needed as the Union government had solicited the EC’s clearance to deal with the matter and had been granted the clearance, reported LiveLaw.

He informed the court that a decision would be taken within the following Monday (29 April).

“I think there’s no need for any argument in this matter…the Election Commission had cleared the government to deal with this question. I think it’ll be done expeditiously. My Lords may keep it anytime next Monday or so…something will happen before (then),” AG submitted.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Karnataka, raised no issue regarding the “confidence” shown by the AG.

Following the submissions, the apex court adjourned the hearing until next week.

Reacting to the submission by the AG, Revenue Minister Krishna Byre Gowda said the state government was looking forward to a favourable decision.

“After long delays by the Ministry of Home Affairs, justice is finally on the horizon for our farmers. The Attorney General representing the GOI has promised swift action within a week, following the Hon. Apex Court’s intervention. We’ve been fighting hard for this, and it’s disheartening that our farmers had to wait so long. We look forward to a prompt and favourable decision,” he said in a post on X.

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The petition

The petition has also sought to declare that the Union government’s action in not releasing the financial assistance for drought arrangement as per the NDRF is “ex-facie violative” of the fundamental rights of the people of the state guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

It said the state is reeling under “severe drought”, affecting the lives of its people, and for the Kharif 2023 season, which starts in June and ends in September, 223 out of 236 taluks are declared drought-affected.

The plea said 196 taluks are categorised as severely affected and the remaining 27 as moderately affected.

“Cumulatively for the Kharif 2023 season, the agriculture and horticulture crop loss have been reported in more than 48 lakh hectares with the estimated loss (cost of cultivation) of ₹35,162 crores,” the plea, filed through advocate DL Chidananda, said.

It said the assistance sought from the Government of India under the NDRF is ₹18,171.44 crore.

“In terms of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, Union of India is under obligation to render financial assistance to the state governments,” the plea, settled by senior advocate Devdatt Kamat and state’s Advocate General K Shashi Kiran Shetty, said.