“If you have two buckets of water that you have saved and kept in your house for the next two weeks and if someone tells you to give it away to your neighbor, will you do it? That’s how Karnataka has reacted to the Supreme Court’s order on releasing Cauvery water and it cannot amount to contempt of court,” says BV Acharya, senior lawyer and former Advocate General of Karnataka.
Last Friday, a joint session of the Karnataka legislature passed a resolution saying that the state has enough water reserves to only use for drinking water purposes. On Monday, the state told the Supreme Court that it cannot honour the apex court’s orders to release 6,000 cusecs per day for eight days to Tamil Nadu.
Karnataka has told the Supreme Court that the ‘arrears’ can be released at the end of December. According to the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal’s final award in 2013, Karnataka is mandated to release 134 tmc feet of water from June to September. This year, owing to water shortage only 52.4 tmc feet of water have been released in this time period.
Though Karnataka has categorically said that it cannot implement the apex court’s order, Acharya believes this was the right decision. “The order of the court is such that it cannot be implemented. The court should be blamed for passing such an order. When there is no way to implement an order, how can that amount to contempt,” he told TNM.
Former Solicitor General of India, Mohan Parasaran is of the view that Karnataka has created a constitutional crisis and was abdicating the State’s responsibility of ensuring obedience to Supreme Court orders.
Acharya disagrees. “There is no constitutional crisis. I would just say that two pillars of the constitution have disagreed with each other. The Supreme Court has ignored the human rights of people in Karnataka. So an order forcing the state to give away its water reserves is a human rights violation,” he said.
The senior lawyer who is also the state’s Special Public Prosecutor in the disproportionate assets case against J Jayalalithaa believes that the court’s order asking for the formation of a Cauvery Water Management Board was incorrect. “It is not Karnataka, but these two judges who should be tried for contempt of court. There have been deliberations on such a board before and the SC had earlier decided that this would be heard along with the main petition. In such a scenario, why did these two judges go ahead and pass an order to constitute the board,” Acharya asked.
But what about the rights of people in Tamil Nadu? “Everyone needs to understand the situation. The CWDT order that mandates how much water is to be released pertains to those years when there is sufficient rain. That cannot be implemented during deficit years. How can Karnataka be expected to release what little water it has?” says Acharya.