Supreme Court to set up bench to hear Tamil Nadu plea for release of Cauvery water by Karnataka

Tamil Nadu sought an apex court direction to Karnataka to make good the shortfall of 28.849 tmcft of water for the current irrigation year.

ByParmod Kumar

Published Aug 21, 2023 | 6:15 PMUpdatedAug 21, 2023 | 6:17 PM

Cauvery River

The Supreme Court on Monday, 21 August, agreed to constitute a bench to hear Tamil Nadu’s plea seeking a direction to Karnataka to “forthwith” release Cauvery river water.

Tamil Nadu approached the apex court a week ago, seeking the directive to obtain 24,000 cusecs (cubic feet per second) of water at Billigundulu between 14 August and 31 August to meet the urgent irrigation requirement of its standing crops.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Tamil Nadu, mentioned the matter for urgent listing before a bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra.

Tamil Nadu also sought to make good of the defect in the release of water and Karnataka’s apparent non-compliance with the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) directive. The CWRC had directed Karnataka to release water for August.

“This is an urgent plea for the release of Cauvery water for August as per the Cauvery Water Management Authority order. The court has to constitute a bench,” Rohatgi said while urging the bench to list it at the earliest for hearing.

“Today itself I will constitute a bench,” said Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud.

Related: Karnataka to file appeal in SC over release of Cauvery water to TN

The TN plea

Tamil Nadu has also sought a direction Supreme Court to the Karnataka government to ensure the stipulated release of 36.76 tmcft of water for September 2023 as per the Cauvery Water Tribunal award, as modified by the top court judgement on 16 February, 2018.

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

It further sought a directive to the CWMA to ensure that Karnataka released the entire quantum of Cauvery water and the stipulated monthly releases for the remaining period of the current water year.

Tamil Nadu said the “deficit in supply at Billigundulu as of 09.08.2023, which is 37.971 tmcft, has to be ensured in addition to the demand of around 24,000 cusecs, in August 2023, required to save the standing crops”.

It pointed out that the CWRC in its 84th meeting on 10 August directed Karnataka to release water from its reservoirs so that 15,000 cusecs of water were released at Billigundulu from 11 August (8 am onwards) for 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 11.08.2023, at the instance of Karnataka.”

Related: Karnataka govt under fire for supplying Cauvery water to TN

The change in allocation

The petitioner also stated that Karnataka had not released the stipulated 10,000 cusecs at Billigundulu from the KRS and Kabini reservoirs.

Tamil Nadu stated: “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 releases from June to January and thereafter from February to May for meeting the environment flows.”

The Supreme Court on 16 February, 2018, reduced Tamil Nadu’s share of the Cauvery water to 177.25 tmcft from the 192 tmcft allocated by a tribunal in 2007.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Amitava Roy, and Justice AM Khanwilkar (all since retired) reduced the share of Tamil Nadu, noting that the Cauvery tribunal had not taken into account the 20 tmcft of groundwater available on Tamil Nadu’s side of the river basin.

“In totality, we deem it appropriate to award to the state of Karnataka an additional 14.75 tmcft of water, i.e., 10 tmcft (on account of availability of groundwater in Tamil Nadu) + 4.75 tmcft (for drinking and domestic purposes including such need for the whole city of Bengaluru),” the court had said.

While allocating an additional 14.75 tmcft of water to Karnataka, the top court had said: “The state of Karnataka would now be required to release 177.25 tmcft of water at the interstate border with Tamil Nadu, i.e., at Billigundulu.”

Therefore, the share of Karnataka has been increased by 14.75 tmcft, which includes an increased allocation for the “global” city of Bengaluru for drinking purposes.

“Drinking water requirement of the overall population of all the states has to be placed on a higher pedestal as we treat it as a hierarchically fundamental principle of equitable distribution,” said Chief Justice Dipak Misra, who had delivered the judgement.

Also read: India stares at its most rain-deficient August in history