Cauvery water release row: SC to hear petitions from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu on 6 September

Shyam Divan, appearing for Karnataka, urged the bench to list the matter for 11 September. Mukul Rohatgi for TN, pushed for 6 September.

ByParmod Kumar

Published Sep 01, 2023 | 11:11 PMUpdatedSep 01, 2023 | 11:11 PM

Cauvery river near Biligundlu. (Creative Commons)

The Supreme Court will hold a hearing on 6 September on a claim and a counter-claim by Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, respectively, regarding the release of Cauvery water.

This is in pursuance of the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal (CWDT) award, as modified by the top court by its judgement on 16 February, 2018, and the direction of the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA).

As the matter was posted for hearing on 6 September, a bench of Justices BR Gavai and Prashant Kumar Mishra was informed that in pursuance to its 25 August direction, the CWMA had submitted a report relating to the compliance of its 11 August direction to Karnataka to release 10,000 cusecs of water at Biligundlu in Tamil Nadu.

TN pushes for early hearing

Informing the bench that the CWMA had already filed its report and, in its 29 August meeting, also directed Karnataka to release at least 5,000 cusecs of Cauvery water at Biligundlu for the next 15 days, starting on 29 August (8 am), senior advocate Shyam Divan — appearing for the Karnataka government — urged the bench to list the matter on 11 September.

However, this was opposed by Tamil Nadu, with senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi — appearing for the state — requesting the bench to hear the matter on either 5 September or 6 September.

Justice Gavai is part of a five-judge Constitution Bench that is hearing a batch of petitions challenging the abrogation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories — J&K and Ladakh.

The Constitution Bench is likely to conclude the hearing by lunch on 6 September. Thus, the court posted the hearing on the Cauvery water allocation row on 6 September.

Also read: Karnataka is releasing Cauvery water to TN, SC is informed

The CWMA report

On 31 August, the CWMA told the Supreme Court that Karnataka had complied with its 11 August, 2023, direction by releasing a total of 1,49,898 cusecs of water at Biligundlu from 12 August to 26 August.

The CWMA said this in an affidavit in response to the apex court’s 25 August direction.

The court has asked the authority to submit a report on whether Karnataka had complied with its direction to release 10,000 cusecs of Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu.

The CWMA also informed the Supreme Court that as per the decision taken during its 23rd meeting, held on 29 August, Karnataka had been directed to “ensure the realisation of the flows at Biligundlu at the rate of 5,000 cusecs, starting from 29 August (8 am) for the next 15 days.”

Explainer: Unraveling the over-a-century-old Cauvery river dispute

Karnataka cites distress conditions

In the last hearing held on 25 August, while Karnataka sought a reduction in the allocation of water to Tamil Nadu citing distress on account of inadequate rainfall, Tamil Nadu sought enhancement in its allocation to irrigate and save its standing crops.

Opposing Tamil Nadu’s application to realise its share of allocation for the second half of August, the Karnataka government said it was based on the assumption that rainfall had been normal this year, but that was not so.

The Karnataka government said that Tamil Nadu seeking a direction for the release of 36.76 tmcft of water in September “has no legal foundations” as the release of such a quantity of water was stipulated only in a normal water year and not in a distress water year.

The Karnataka government also told the top court that up to 9 August, the shortfall in rains in the state was 25 percent. Consequently, the inflow of water in four reservoirs in the state was lower by 42.5 percent, as recorded by the CWMA.

“During this water year, due to the failure of the southwest monsoon, the distress condition has arisen in the Cauvery basin in Karnataka. Karnataka, therefore, is not obliged to and it cannot be compelled to ensure water, as per the stipulated releases prescribed for the normal year,” stated the affidavit by the Karnataka government.

Also Read: SC seeks report on Karnataka water release compliance

TN seeks Cauvery water

Besides seeking direction for the release of 24,000 cusecs of water at Biligundlu, Tamil Nadu also sought a direction to the Karnataka government to ensure the stipulated releases of 36.76 tmcft of water for September, as per the CWDT award.

Tamil Nadu sought further direction to the Karnataka government to make good on the shortfall of 28.849 tmcft of water for the current irrigation year starting from 1 June to 31 July.

It further sought direction to the CWMA to ensure that the quantum of Cauvery water that Karnataka had to release to Tamil Nadu was fully implemented, and that the stipulated monthly releases during the remaining period of the current water year were fully given effect.

Tamil Nadu, in its application, said that the “deficit in supply at Biligundlu as on 9 August, which was 37.971 tmcft, has to be ensured, in addition to the demand of around 24,000 cusecs in the month of August, is required to save the standing crops”.

Related: TN, K’taka upset over order to release 5,000 cusecs of Cauvery water

Pointing out that the CWRC, in its 84th meeting on 10 August 2023, had directed Karnataka to release water from its reservoirs so that 15,000 cusecs is released at Biligundlu from 11 August 2023 or the next 15 days, Tamil Nadu said, “Unfortunately, even this quantum of water was arbitrarily reduced to 10,000 cusecs by the CWMA in its 22nd meeting held on 11 August 2023, at the insistence of Karnataka.”

It added: “Regretfully, even this amount of 10,000 cusecs, to be ensured at Biligundlu by releasing such quantum of water from the Krishna Raja Sagara and Kabini reservoirs, has not been complied with by the state of Karnataka.”

Tamil Nadu also said: “Karnataka is duty-bound to release the Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu, as per the Final Order passed by the tribunal as modified by this Hon’ble Court. Karnataka has been directed daily/monthly release during the months of June to January and, thereafter, from February to May for meeting the environment flows in the current water year.”