The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Karnataka government to release 12,000 cusecs of Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu every day till September 20, modifying its earlier order of 15,000 cusecs water.
Noting that the meeting of the Cauvery supervisory committee that would examine Tamil Nadu's plea for the release of 35 TMC of Cauvery water is commencing on Monday and would take time to complete its job, the court directed the next hearing of the matter on September 20.
The bench by its September 5 order had asked the committee to examine Tamil Nadu's application.
The order on Monday came after a special hearing on Karnataka's application seeking that the September 5 order be kept in abeyance contending that as while 15,000 cusecs of water was released every day to Tamil Nadu, but it was utilising just 1,250 cusecs.
Karnataka said that while water storage in its Krishna Raja Sagara Dam was depleting, the storage level in Mettur reservoir in Tamil Nadu was increasing.
Taking exception to Karnataka citing law and order situation as a ground for seeking suspension of the September 5 order, the court said it was the obligation of Karnataka government "to maintain law and order and see that order is complied with in letter and spirit".
At the outset of the hearing, Justice Misra told senior counsel Fali Nariman, appearing for Karnataka, that the ground of law and order raised by Karnataka could not call for an urgent hearing or for seeking modification of order.
Pointing out that the way the application seeking the modification of September 5 order has been drafted was not a "happy one", he took exception to its "tenor, language and assertion".
"Do they really call for a modification of an order.
"To put it in a constitutional frame, the executive has to implement the orders of this court, they can't put the blame on X,Y,Z, .." Justice Misra observed.
The court also asked the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments to ensure that observance of law and order situation in both states.
Accepting the disapproval of Karnataka's application by the bench, Nariman said he would withdraw it and file a fresh one but urged the court to consider the plea for putting September 5 order in abeyance.
He said that while seeking the release of Cauvery water during the September 5 hearing, Tamil Nadu had said that if Karnataka doesn't release water then it would "absolutely damage" the "summer crop" leading to an "unacceptable plight" of the farmers.
Noting the court had directed Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs every day for next ten days while recording "the plight (of the farmer) that has been projected with agony" by Tamil Nadu, he said that in last seven days from September 6, Tamil Nadu has utilised only 1250 cusecs per day from Mettur Dam, and the plight of the farmer that was projected in the last hearing "is not there, was not there at all".
Nariman said that total water released So far is more than 10 TMC, but utilisation by Tamil Nadu was less than one TMC.
However, senior counsel Shekhar Naphade appearing for Tamil Nadu told the bench that they needed 50 TMC of water in Mettur Dam to meet the water requirement throughout September and claimed that reservoirs in Karnataka were depleting because they had utilised excess of water in June, July and August.
"They (Karnataka) suddenly jacked up their needs (of water) disproportionately" and now "they want premium on that", he said.
He said that even if Tamil Nadu were to accept that there were deficit rains, then the withdrawal of water has to be scaled down proportionately and same could not be citied as a ground to deny Tamil Nadu its share of water under Cauvery river water award.
The Karnataka government approached the Supreme Court Registrar at his residence a few hours before midnight on Saturday with an urgent plea for intervention, stating public unrest and turmoil as the reason.
It also claimed that 66000 cusecs of water was released to Tamil Nadu from September 5 to 10 as a goodwill gesture. Alleging that the water is for storage purpose in Tamil Nadu while Karnataka is reeling under a drinking water crisis, the government asserted that the order had caused a lot of distress to the people of Karnataka, especially the farmers. It further said that the Samba region of Tamil Nadu has enough supply of groundwater for cultivation.
The emergency hearing comes after Karnataka saw huge protests and a bandh was observed on Friday over the top courtâ€™s verdict directing the state to release water to Tamil Nadu.
The issue has also triggered violence by pro-Kannada and Tamil groups with incidences of violence in respective states and even movie releases were put on hold.
Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah on Friday itself wrote to PM Modi urging him to call a meeting of chief ministers to sort out the dispute over the Cauvery.
The court said it would issue further orders on the issue on September 20, the next date of hearing.
(With inputs from IANS)