Karnataka's worst fear came true on Tuesday when the Supreme Court directed the Centre to constitute the Cauvery Management Board within four weeks, while directing Karnataka to release 6,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu daily from September 21 till September 28.
The proposed Board, the state fears, will go beyond necessity and intrudes into State’s authority sanctioned by the Constitution (entry 17 of State list in 7th schedule of the statute). Once the board is constituted, it will supervise/operate reservoirs and regulate release of water. This, Karnataka, feels will adversely affect the state’s interests, particularly the supply of drinking water to Bangalore city.
On September 19, the Cauvery Supervisory Committee chaired by Union Water Resources secretary Shashi Shekhar had directed Karnataka to release 3000 cusecs of water per day to Tamil Nadu from 21st till 30th September 2016. During the meeting, it was also decided that Central Water Commission would draw up a new protocol for online collection of data related to rainfall and flow of water on real time basis which may be shared simultaneously with all the concerned states.
The apex court has now ruled that any objections to the supervisory committee order dated 19 September 2016, is to be filed within three days by both parties. Centre has to notify the constitution of the board within four weeks.
During the hearing, state counsel Fali S Nariman had urged the court to allow a Special Leave Petition (SLP) and also contended that a temporary release order was not the solution. But to no avail.
In February 2013, Karnataka couldn’t prevent notification of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal’s final award in the gazette. The CMB, the state is convinced, would be detrimental to the interests of the state’s farmers and wants the Centre to wait till the appeal on the Tribunal’s final award is decided by the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the farmers in the Cauvery belt are distraught and the opposition is demanding an emergency legislature session.
Former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy demanded an emergency legislature session be convened. “The government should not shy away from opposing the order, as the verdict is inhuman. I had anticipated such a blow and had urged the government to compensate the farmers as the state has failed to ensure water. The Board will be a major setback for the state,” he said.
Kodihalli Chandrashekhar, a farmer leader rued it was a black day. "SC has set a bad precedence. It is an unscientific decision. We want the CM to go ahead and defy the SC order. He was given the mandate by the people and not by his high command. The government feared contempt of court and complied with all the court orders. We have reached a dead end," said Chandrashekhar.
BJP state president B.S. Yeddyurappa asserted his party was always opposed the formation of the Board. "Today, we are facing this crisis due to the chief minister faltering at every step including offer to release 10,000 cusecs. There is no drinking water and even monsoon has receded and reservoirs have dried up. But CM announced he will give water to TN and also our farmers and cities, which has mislead the Supreme Court. A legislature session should be convened," said Yeddyurappa.