Unrelenting in its position despite the fresh Supreme Court order to release 6,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu, Karnataka cabinet decided to convene another legislature session on October 3 to take a call on the apex court’s directive.
Refusing to budge from its stand a day after the Supreme Court gave the “last opportunity” to comply with its order, the state questioned the constitution of the Cauvery Water Management Board and decided to file a review petition in this regard on Monday.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah spelt out the state’s stand to reporters after an all-party meeting convened by him told the government not to release “at any cost” 6,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu as directed by the Supreme Court, and to oppose the formation of the Board.
“All-party meeting has told us not to release the water. We have to go back to the legislature,” Siddaramaiah said, adding “as far as release of water (is concerned), we will go back to the Assembly on Monday.”
He emphasised that a special session of both the Houses of the state legislature had on September 23 mandated through a resolution that water should be used only for drinking purpose, and not be spared for any other use.
Siddaramaiah said the state would also question the formation of the water management board, for which the Supreme Court had set 4 PM of today as the deadline for the riparian states to give the names of their representatives.
“That we are questioning. That is why we are filing the review petition on Monday.”
Taking Karnataka to task for its repeated “defiance” by flouting its orders on release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu and giving it a last chance, the Supreme Court had yesterday asked it to discharge 6,000 cusecs from October 1 to 6, warning no one would know when the “wrath of the law” would fall on it.
The court had also directed the Centre to constitute the Cauvery Water Management Board by October 4.
“We have not defied the orders of the Supreme Court… There is no wilful 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.
He said, “Our argument since the beginning is that Management Board cannot be created. Since the final award (Cauvery tribunal’s) came on February 5, 2007, we have been saying that Management Board cannot be created.”
He also said on October 18, the SLP by Karnataka challenging final award of the Cauvery tribunal was coming up before the court’s three-judge bench.
“There it will be decided, because Tamil Nadu’s Interlocutory Application has said this application can be heard along with main petition.”
“They (TN) have said that three-judge bench can decide on it (the Board), but here two-judge bench has done this. There was no prayer either by Tamil Nadu or by Karnataka. Also, notices were not issued to Kerala and Puducherry (riparian states). In their absence, this order has been passed.”
“So according to me it is a defective order. That is why we have decided to file a review petition. Most likely Monday we are filing the review petition.”
He said procedures under the Inter-State Water Dispute Act, 1956 had to be followed and the issue has to be placed before Parliament. After the scheme is drawn in Parliament, the states have to send nominees for the Board to the Water Resources Ministry. “This is the legal position.”
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.
Emerging from the over three-hour long all-party meeting here, BJP and JDS leaders said they told the government to stick to the resolution passed by both the Houses of state legislature that water should be used only for drinking purpose, and not be spared for any other use.
“We should not obey the Supreme Court order at any cost as it is unimplementable. The House (legislature) decision should be upheld. Government should stick to the decision,” Opposition Leader in the Assembly Jagadish Shettar said.
He said BJP was opposed to formation of Cauvery Water Management Board. “We will do all that is necessary to put pressure on the Centre (not to constitute it),” he said.
JDS leader Y S V Datta said 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.
Asked about the Supreme Court observation that Karnataka cannot defy the orders any more, Siddaramaiah said, “This is not the first time they have said. They have said it on 7th (September), 12th, 20th…”
On the court talking about “the wrath” of the law, he said “whatever may be the words used, we have not defied the orders of the Supreme Court, there is no wilful or deliberate disobedience. Assembly has passed the resolution, it is binding on us. So we will go back to Assembly on Monday.”
Asked who will represent Karnataka in the Supreme Court as Fali Nariman has withdrawn, Siddaramaiah said, “If Nariman does not agree, we will engage some other advocate.”
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda today began an “indefinite” fast seeking “justice” for Karnataka in the ongoing row with Tamil Nadu in the morning but towards the end of the day called it off.
Gowda’s decision to end the fast came after Union Ministers Ananth Kumar and D V Sadananda Gowda and Opposition BJP leader in the Assembly Jagadish Shettar called on him and made an appeal to him.
Siddaramaiah and Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge also called on Gowda earlier.
The Centre had made an attempt to broker an agreement between the two squabbling states on September 29 but it had failed to yield any result.
The Cauvery Supervisory Committee had on September 19 asked Karnataka to release 3,000 cusecs daily from September 21 to 30, but the apex court had on September 20 doubled the quantum to 6,000 cusecs from September 21 to 27 after Tamil Nadu pressed for water to save its samba paddy crop.
On September 27, the Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and U U Lalit directed Karnataka to release 6,000 cusecs to Tamil Nadu for three days, despite the resolution passed by the state legislature.
On September 12, the court had modified its order of September 5 directing Karnataka to release 12,000 cusecs per day till September 20 to Tamil Nadu. The September 5 order had directed release of 15,000 cusecs of Cauvery water per day to Tamil Nadu for the next 10 days.