NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the central government to convene a meeting of the Chief Ministers of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for finding some way to break the impasse over the release of Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu.
Asking the Centre to facilitate such a meeting, the bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit also directed the Karnataka government to release 6,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu every day for the next three days.
Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have locked horns over sharing the Cauvery water. The Karnataka government on Monday told the Supreme Court that it can release additional water to Tamil Nadu only by December, and that "Karnataka's all major cities, including Bengaluru, are falling short of drinking water".
Karnataka also sought modification of the Supreme Court order that instructed it to give more water to Tamil Nadu.
A few days ago, the Karnataka assembly passed a resolution, contending that the river water would be used only for meeting drinking water needs of villages and towns in the Cauvery basin and Bengaluru.
Seeking Centre's assistance for finding a political solution to the impasse by bringing both Chief Ministers on the negotiating table, the bench said that it is not the case that this court "cannot adjudicate or pass appropriate orders in accordance with law".
"We have asked for this not because this court cannot adjudicate or pass appropriate orders in accordance with law to maintain and sustain the rule of law and majesty of law which are elan vital of our constitutional law, but prior to that we have thought it appropriate that there has to be discussion" giving regard to the conceptual federalism prevalent in "our democratic body polity", it said.
Senior advocates F S Nariman and Shekhar Naphade, representing Karnataka and Tamil Nadu respectively, agreed to the suggestion mooted by the court for the meeting of heads of two states with the central authorities.
While the order was being dictated by the bench, Nariman, appearing for Karnataka, vehemently opposed any direction asking the state to release water, saying there was "no logic in it" and the order amounted to "a direct confrontation".
Blaming Karnataka's "obstructionist and obstinate" attitude for the impasse and non-compliance of the apex court directives, Naphade, appearing for Tamil Nadu, submitted: "On instruction, I am saying that the state (Tamil Nadu) is fed up. We are simply tired of this litigation. We are not getting what is our legitimate rights."
"We are in a federal structure and in a democracy like India, no state can say it will not obey the Supreme Court's order. You cannot pick up fight with everyone. It is not about Karnataka or Tamil Nadu or any state, there has to be federal cooperativism," the bench said, asking both states to cooperate in finding a solution to the water feud.
The bench, on being repeatedly pursued by Tamil Nadu to get its orders enforced, said, "Have patience for few days. This is not an ordinary litigation. Let us see how things shape up."
At the outset, the Tamil Nadu counsel said the September 20 order of the apex court asking Karnataka to release 6,000 cusecs of Cauvery water per day to Tamil Nadu has not been complied with and rather, "in complete defiance, a resolution has been passed by their state assembly that it cannot spare water for us." The counsel for Tamil Nadu said, "Karnataka should not be heard till it complies with the orders."
Naphade said Tamil Nadu was fed up of this litigation and urged the apex court to exercise its "extraordinary" powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to enforce its orders.
Rebutting the submission, Nariman said that monthly installments of water, to be released to Tamil Nadu, can only be assessed at the end of the season and right now, there was insufficient water in Karnataka's reservoirs.
"There is no dispute that monthly allocation is not fixed. That is why the Cauvery Management Board was to decide how much is the rainfall and how much water could be released. We can understand the difficulties of the state (Karnataka). What is your (Karnataka) suggestion for compliance of directions," the bench observed.
Noticing the conflicting positions of both the states, the bench, which had asked the Attorney General to stay back in the courtroom, came out with the suggestion that he should facilitate a meeting between the heads of the states with the Centre to find a solution to the logjam and apprise it of the outcome on September 30, the next date of hearing.