Apex court seeks report on Tamil Nadu crops

New Delhi, Feb 4 (IANS) The Supreme Court Monday directed the chairman of the Central Water Commission to set up a three-member panel to visit the Cauvery Delta Basin to assess Tamil Nadu's standing crops.

Judges R.M. Lodha, J. Chelameswar and Madan B. Lokur said the experts would submit their report to the court by Wednesday, and the same would be taken up for consideration the next day.

In the meantime, the court said, irrespective of the report, Tamil Nadu would release two TMC (thousand million cubic feet) of water from Mettur reservoir for its crops. Karnataka would replenish this from the Cauvery.

After calling for the expert committee, the court hauled up the central government for not publishing in the official gazette the Cauvery River Water Disputes Award finalised Feb 5, 2007.

The court directed the centre to publish it at the earliest but no later than Feb 20.

This, it said, would be without prejudice to pending proceedings in the matter.

The court brushed aside the central government's plea that it does not want to take a unilateral decision and wanted to evolve a consensus between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu before publishing the award.

Refusing to accept the submissions of Additional Solicitor General Harin Rawal, the court said the central government was under statutory mandate to publish the final decision of the tribunal.

"Law does not give you any choice, option or discretion," Justice Lodha said. "Once the final decision is taken by the tribunal, you have no option, choice or discretion but to publish the award."

Rawal told the court that Karnataka and Tamil Nadu take one stand before the court and another before the government.

Rawal said that on Jan 12, the central government received a communication from the Karnataka chief secretary that they would clarify their position.

At this, Justice Lokur asked: "Suppose they (Karnataka) don't clarify their position for one year, what will you do?"

"You are under the mandate of law," Justice Lodha said. "Rawal, you have flouted the mandate of the Inter-State River Water Dispute Act for five years."

Appearing for Tamil Nadu, senior counsel C.S. Vaidvanathan sought nine TMC of water for the state's standing crops spread over six lakh hectares of land.

He said that one-third of the crops spread over three lakh hectares of land had perished due to drought and the remaining crop in six lakh hectares area need to be irrigated twice to save it.

Senior counsel Fali Nariman, appearing for Karnataka, contended that 40 percent of standing crops had been harvested and the rest was about to be harvested. Thus, Tamil Nadu needs no water for irrigation.

Vaidyanathan countered: "This is nothing but standing on prestige." He alleged that the figures submitted by Karnataka were false.

At this juncture, Justice Lodha said: "You (Tamil Nadu) may get more. Why you want in piecemeal?"

The court is hearing petitions by Tamil Nadu and Karnataka rooted in the Sep 19, 2012 interim order of the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) directing Karnataka to give 9,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu daily till Oct 15.

The order of CRA, headed by the prime minister, was to come into force Sep 20. The apex court Sep 28 rapped Karnataka for not complying with the direction of CRA.

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