The Cauvery water issue has taken another new turn with the Karnataka government moving a review petition in the Supreme Court, seeking a re-look at the apex court orders for the release of water to Tamil Nadu and direction for a constitution of Cauvery Water Management Board by the Centre.
The review petition stated that because of release of 6,000 cusecs of water till October 6 and constitution of the board by the Centre till October 4 “undue hardship will be caused to us (Karnataka) and there will be a grave miscarriage of justice”. Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti had already announced that she would go on an indefinite fast (aka Mahatma Gandhi’s ways) till the two states resolve the issue.
However, the review petition by Karnataka, coming at a time when the Indian government is trying to review the Indus river treaty, assumes significance as it stated that the “wrath of law falls on the State”.
In international water treaties, India may succeed in having its way in respect of Indus river water treaty, but it may not be able to tackle its own domestic river problems.
Karnataka, in its review petition, said, the board to be constituted “is vested with the powers and functions, which are not only unnecessary, but also intrude into the Legislative and Executive power of the state”. The Supreme Court had on September 27 asked Karnataka to release 6,000 cusecs of water for two days to Tamil Nadu and made it clear that “this is to show its bona fide”.
The Karnataka government sought to postpone the implementation of the order to release water to Tamil Nadu until January 2017.
Meanwhile, the Karnataka legislative assembly passed a resolution which the Supreme Court refused to take on records. However, the important observation made by the Supreme Court was that “in a federal structure like India, a state can say it will not obey the order and pick up a fight with another state. It is not permissible”.
Karnataka claimed that it could not release any water to Tamil Nadu because it has to secure drinking water for its own needs. It said that in a year of insufficient rainfall and distress, the state is nonetheless obliged to reserve for supply to inhabitants water at national standard norms (135 litres per capita per day) in urban areas and (70 litres per capita per day) in rural areas.
Review petitions go before the same bench which has made the order but there is no definite date and most of the review petitions are dismissed. This may or may not be an exception.