Karnataka decided on Monday to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu, after twice deferring Supreme Court directives to share the river’s water with its neighbour.
A resolution was passed at a special legislative session to release water to farmers in the Cauvery basin, including Tamil Nadu, for people’s irrigation and drinking water requirements.
However, the quantum of water to be released was not mentioned in the resolution.
The Supreme Court asked Karnataka on September 30 to discharge 6,000 cusecs from October 1 to 6 . The court’s directive came with a warning that no one would know when the “wrath of the law” would fall on it.
Again on Monday, the Court asked Karnataka to stop defying its order to release water to Tamil Nadu, asking the state to let it know by 2pm on Tuesday if it has followed the directive.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said the state has no intention to disrespect the Supreme Court’s orders now that rainfall in the past 10 days has eased the water shortage.
Tamil Nadu had pressed for Cauvery water to save its paddy crop, but Karnataka refused, citing monsoon failure and depleted reservoirs. When the top court ordered Karnataka to release water last month, it triggered riots in Bengaluru, with Kannadigas attacking Tamils and their property.
As the century old dispute over sharing the river’s water simmered, the Centre did a volte face on Monday and opposed a top court order to set up a Cauvery Water Management Board, which would be an all-encompassing authority to instruct or suggest measures and settle disputes.
Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi requested the bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra to reconsider its order, saying only Parliament has the power to constitute such a board.
The Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal was the first to recommend in 2007 that such a board should be formed. But Rohatgi explained that the inter-state water disputes act of 1956 allows Parliament, not the Union government, to set up the board.
“I agree it was my fault,” he said when the court questioned him why he accepted the order in the previous two hearings on September 20 and 30.
“Setting up of a board is a legislative exercise. The Bhakra-Beas Management Board was set up under the Punjab reorganization act, while the Krishna and Godavari boards were set up under the AP reorganization act of 2014,” Rohatgi said.
The court wanted a board so that its team could make site inspections and submit a report.
The Centre suggested a team headed by GS Jha, the Central Water Commission chairman, could inspect the Cauvery basin and prepare a report for the court.