BENGALURU: The latest Supreme Court order has landed the Siddaramaiah government in a tight spot. The government is caught between the apex court order to release water to Tamil Nadu and the state legislature resolution against doing so. Perhaps, for the first time, the government is engaged in a confrontation with the highest court in the country.
The government has called for an all-party leaders’ meeting to discuss the implications of the Supreme Court order on release of water and formation of the Cauvery Management Board (CMB). Though a section of Congress leaders may argue for complying with the SC order to avoid facing contempt charges, such a move is unlikely to get opposition backing. The Cauvery crisis is as much a political issue as it is a legal case being fought in the apex court.
According to those in the know of the developments in the government, Siddaramaiah and his party is concerned about the backlash it may have to face if it decides to release water.
Sources said legal experts have advised the government to comply with the SC order as water levels in the four reservoirs in the Cauvery basin, that was at around 27 tmcft when the resolution was passed by the legislature, has gone up by around 5 tmcft.
The resolution specifically stated that the ‘current storage’ (on that day) in the reservoirs will be used only for providing drinking water and it doesn’t mention anything about the stand to be taken when the reservoir levels increase. “Technically, the government can release water and it will not amount to violation of the resolution. But, since it is a political issue, the government may not take such a decision,” sources said.
In the all-party meeting, the government is expected to place all facts including increase in the water levels in the reservoirs over the last few days and implications of not complying with the SC order before the leaders of the Opposition and also senior Congress leaders. The focus certainly will be on measures to be taken to stall the formation of the CMB as that would deliver a mortal blow to the state as it would lose its control over the reservoirs.
That would also be a big setback for Siddaramaiah, who is now seen as a leader who has taken a tough stand to protect the interests of farmers.
“Though formation of the board was part of the Tribunal’s final order, it has been challenged in the SC. The petition is coming up for hearing before a larger bench on October 18. What has complicated matters for the state is the SC direction on formation of the board in three days,” sources said.
Political analyst Prof Sandeep Shastry says, “It is one of those rare cases of judicial overreach. Inter-state water disputes are not a subject to be handled by the judiciary.” He explained that such issues can be resolved by the states concerned.
Drop by drop
August 22, 2016: Tamil Nadu approaches Supreme Court urging it to ensure release of 25 tmcft of water in 10 days for its samba crop, which Karnataka declined stating rainfall shortage
August 24: CM Siddaramaiah and Law Minister T B Jayachandra say that State would inform SC about its difficulty in releasing water. Tamil Nadu decides to file a petition seeking water release as per Cauvery Water Tribunal
September 2: SC tells State government to release water on humanitarian grounds
Sep 5: SC, in its order directs State to release 15,000 cusecs of water per day till September 16, attracting widespread condemnation across the state. Kannada organisations call for a Statewide bandh
Sep 9: Bandh call in Karnataka results in a law and order problem, disrupting the movement of vehicles between the two States
Sep 12: SC modifies its previous orders and directs Karnataka to release 12,000 cusecs of water till September 20. Violent protests erupt in Bengaluru, leaving two persons dead. Section 144 imposed in the city
Sep 19: Cauvery Supervisory Committee orders Karnataka to release 3,000 cusecs water per day to Tamil Nadu between September 21 and September 30
Sep 20: SC directs State to release 6,000 cusecs of water between Sept 21 and Sept 23; Karnataka refuses to comply
Sep 23: State Legislature passes a resolution stating that water won’t be released and will be used for drinking purposes only
Sep 28: SC directs Karnataka to comply with its order. Asks Centre to arrange a meeting between the heads of both States
Sep 29: CM Siddaramaiah and PWD Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami with union minister Uma Bharathi, but meeting inconclusive
Tight security in Bengaluru after Supreme Court order
In the wake of the Supreme Court order on the Cauvery issue on Friday, elaborate security arrangements were in place the city. Six companies of Rapid Action Force, three of Border Security Force, three Sashasthra Seema Bal, one Indo-Tibetian Border Police, one company of Central Industrial Security Force, 45 platoons of Karnataka State Reserve police and 30 platoons of City Armed Reserve were deployed. A police source said that the central forces deployed in city will continue till October 5. “We will decide whether their services have to be extended based on the situation,” the source said. Police updated on the social media about the security arrangements in place. On Friday morning, DCPs of all divisions patrolled their respective divisions, ensuring security deployment.