The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed the Centre’s contention that it had no jurisdiction over the Cauvery water dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, The Hindu reported. The apex court upheld its constitutional power to hear the appeals filed by the two states and Kerala against the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal’s final order in 2007. It scheduled the next hearing for December 15.
A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Dipak Misra, said the interim order issued to Karnataka to release 2,000 cusecs of water from the river to Tamil Nadu stands till further notice, ANI reported.
The Centre’s counsel had said that the parliamentary law of Inter-State Water Disputes Act of 1956 and Article 262 (2) of the Indian Constitution barred the apex court from deciding on any appeals against the Cauvery Tribunal’s decision. The government had also asserted that the tribunal award was final.
The tribunal represents the Supreme Court, and its decision should be considered on par with its own, the government had argued, saying it was their prerogative to decide on how to implement the tribunal’s order. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had said that any appeal to the apex court against the tribunal award would mean “an appeal to the Supreme Court challenging the Supreme Court’s decision”.
In 2007, the tribunal allocated 419 thousand million cubic feet to Tamil Nadu, 270 tmcft to Karnataka, 30 tmcft to Kerala and 7 tmcft to Puducherry of the 740 tmcft of water available in the Cauvery basin. The Centre had notified the tribunal’s award in 2013.
The states, however, challenged the Centre’s stand that opposes the top court exercising its constitutional power to hear appeals in the matter. Tamil Nadu’s senior advocate Shekhar Naphade had said that provisions in the 1956 Act only specify the process to be followed once the tribunal decides on its award. Karnataka’s representative, Fali Nariman, had said, “Parliament cannot curtail the Supreme Court’s powers to render justice.”
The Cauvery water-sharing dispute snowballed into a controversy after the Supreme Court, on September 5, directed Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu. It later modified its verdict and reduced the quantity to 12,000 cusecs, but the order had led to widespread protests by farmers in Karnataka, who had argued that the state needed the water more than its neighbour. While Karnataka had earlier defied Supreme Court orders and decided against releasing water to its neighbouring state, it released 6,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu late on October 3.