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Published On: Fri, Feb 16th, 2018

Cauvery verdict: Top Court gives more water to Karnataka, TN calls it a setback

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bj6PMNEW DELHI :  A river’s water is a “national asset” and a beneficial gift of nature and no state can claim its “exclusive ownership” or deprive others, the Supreme Court said today.

The apex court said the water of inter-state river is common and equal to all, through whose land it runs, and no one can obstruct or divert it. The court’s 465-page verdict on the water dispute of river Cauvery, which flows through Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry, also referred to international rules of Helsinki, Compione and Berlin on equitable distribution of river waters passing through several nations.
Being in a state of flow, no state can claim exclusive ownership of such waters or assert a prescriptive right so as to deprive the other States of their equitable share,” a three-judge bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra said while citing the Presidential Reference on Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal (CWDT).
The bench, also comprising justices Amitava Roy and A M Khanwilkar, said “It has been propounded therein that the right to flowing water is well-settled to be a right incident to property in the land and is a right publici juris of such character, that while it is common and equal to all through whose land it runs and no one can obstruct or divert it, yet as one of the beneficial gifts of nature, each beneficiary has a right to just and reasonable use of it.

” The top court said in this context, the principle of equitable apportionment internationally recognised by the Helsinki Rules, Compione Rules and Berlin Rules which have also been incorporated in the 1987 to 2002 National Water Policies, have been regarded to be the guiding factor for resolving disputes qua apportionment of water of an interstate river.

“The waters of an inter-state river passing through the corridors of the riparian states constitute national asset and cannot be said to be located in any one state.
The Top court verdict implies that Karnataka will now get an additional 14.75 tmcft as compared to the previous 2007 order. ”Karnataka will now release 177.25 tmcft of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu from its inter-state Biligundlu dam,” the apex court said in its order.
Tamil Nadu will now get 404.25 tmcft of Cauvery water instead of 419 tmcft allotted by 2007 tribunal and the award of 30 tmcft to Kerala and 7 tmcft to Puducherry will remain unchanged, the top court said.”No deviance shall be shown by any state,” the Supreme Court said while delivering the Cauvery verdict.

The top court also made it clear that increase in the share of Cauvery water for Karnataka by 14.75 tmcft has been done keeping in view the fact that there is an increased demand of drinking water by Bengaluru and also for many industrial activities.

The top court further ruled that the 20 TMC of groundwater in Tamil Nadu had not been accounted for and needed to be seen. However, it allowed Tamil Nadu to draw additional 10 tmcft ‘groundwater’ from total of 20 tmcft beneath Cauvery basin.

The verdict was delivered by the three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Amitava Roy and AM Khanwilkar. The apex court ruling has been widely welcomed by politicians and activists from Karnataka, however, the leading political parties in Tamil Nadu, including DMK and the AIADMK, have termed it as a ”shocker” and ”extremely disappointing”.

”Will react in detail after reading the judgement but prima facie we welcome it,” Jagadish Shettar, former CM of Karnataka, said while reacting to the ruling. Meanwhile, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah was also briefed about the top court ruling by his colleagues inside the state Assembly. He too welcomed the ruling.

Reacting to the judgement, A Navaneethakrishnan, lawyer for Taml Nadu, said, ”Originally awarded 192 TMC water to Tamil Nadu has been reduced with SC order. 14.75 TMC extra water has been given to Karnataka to provide drinking water to Bengaluru city. We hope that TN govt will take appropriate steps.”

Celebrations erupted in Karnataka shortly after the favourable Supreme Court ruling in the case and people were seen distributing sweets to each other. Security was beefed up in both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu ahead of the Supreme Court verdict in the Cauvery water dispute case.
According to ANI, elaborate security arrangements were made in Bengaluru and other cities as the authorities feared law and order problems in the wake of an adverse verdict by the top court.

Bengaluru Police Commissioner T Suneel Kumar had earlier informed that at least 15,000 police personnel were deployed on duty. Karnataka State Reserve Police Force and personnel from other forces were also deployed to avoid any untoward incident across the state.
Meanwhile, bus services between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu were affected. Commuters in Hosur claimed that the number of buses plying to Karnataka has been reduced in the wake of the verdict in Cauvery water sharing dispute case.
The states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala had challenged the 2007 order of the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal (CWDT) on sharing of Cauvery water.  The three states had sought modification of Cauvery Tribunal’s final order. The bench had reserved its order on the matter on September 20, 2017.

The state governments in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and Puducherry had filed petitions seeking modification of Cauvery Tribunal’s final order. The verdict holds significance since sharing the Cauvery water is an emotive as well existential issue for thousands of families dependent on the river that flows between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
The 120-year-old Cauvery water dispute was earlier decided unanimously by CWDT in 2007, after determining the total availability of water in the Cauvery basin at 740 thousand million cubic (tmc) feet at the Lower Coleroon Anicut site, including 14 tmcft for environmental protection.(With Agency Inputs ).


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