Karnataka’s legislature on Friday refused to share Cauvery water with Tamil Nadu, potentially setting the state on a collision course with the Supreme Court days after violence rocked capital Bengaluru over the sensitive issue.
Both the legislative council and lower house adopted similar resolutions saying that the river water will be used only for meeting drinking water needs of villages and towns in the Cauvery basin and Bengaluru.
The resolutions, however, did not mention the top court’s order directing the state to release 6,000 cusecs (cubic feet per second) of water to the neighbouring state till September 27.
The legislature’s decision came nearly two weeks after an earlier apex court order sparked large scale violence in state capital Bengaluru where mobs targetted Tamil-speaking speaking and their properties. Sporadic violence has continued since then across the state, large parts of which are facing water shortage.
For chief minister Siddaramaiah, who gave an impassioned speech in the assembly, a face-off with the judiciary could prove costly given past instances of the state’s attempts to take on the top court on the more than century-old dispute.
In 1991, then chief minister S Bangarappa had tried to circumvent a Cauvery interim award through an ordinance. Later in 2002, another chief minister SM Krishna too had refused to release water to Tamil Nadu. The apex court struck down the ordinance and forced Krishna, who was in danger of being hauled for contempt of court, to comply with its order.
What makes the situation different now is that the entire state legislature has unanimously taken a stand against an apex court’s order, experts pointed out.
Legal experts quoted in various newspapers and television channels here have varying versions of what can happen -- from tying the apex court’s hands in the matter to outright dismissal of the government and assembly.
Siddaramaiah, however, insisted that the resolution was not a defiance of the Supreme Court.
“We have great respect for the judiciary. The intention is not to disobey the judicial order. We will not think of it even in our dreams,” he said during the assembly debate.
“People have given us a mandate. We cannot defy it…it would be a dereliction of duty on our part.”
The ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu reacted sharply, saying the issue was being politicised by the Karnataka government “because they are going to face elections very soon”.
“Cauvery belongs to us as well, not only to Karnataka. The water has to come to Tamil Nadu,” ANI quoted AIADMK leader CR Saraswathi as saying.