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Court Cuts: High cauvery drama in SC today as seniors clashed, laughed (and didn’t share water)

Cauvery kolaveri continues, but hope for improvement in sight
Cauvery kolaveri continues, but hope for improvement in sight

After three hours of an intense hearing from 2pm today, the Supreme Court bench of justices Dipak Misra and UU Lalit, in an interim order, directed Karnataka to release 6,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu until 27 September.

This was 3,000 cusecs more than what the Supervisory Committee had decided on 19 September for Karnataka to release to Tamil Nadu.

The hearing of the senior counsel, Fali Nariman, Shekhar Naphade and Harish Salve by the bench saw several tense as well as a few light moments.

Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand set the tone by bringing in the decision of the Supervisory Committee asking Karnataka to release 3000 cusecs of water to TN But she was not sure whether it was a direction, or a unanimous decision. She said she would check and get back.

Both Nariman, counsel for Karnataka, and Shekhar Naphade, counsel for TN, attacked the Supervisory Committee for different reasons. Nariman said the Supervisory Committee was not competent to direct Karnataka, when it disagreed. Naphade said the committee saw itself as an appellate authority to the Tribunal, which it is not.

The bench found to its dismay that the committee which it helped to create in 2013, did not have a clue about its role. It took due note of the fact that TN’s samba crop was in peril, if adequate water were not released by 15 October.

Nariman vehemently protested, and asked the bench not to issue any interim order, and instead hear the parties to reach a final decision. Nariman said Karnataka would file its objections against the Supervisory committee’s decision, and they be heard expeditiously. He claimed that the committee did not take into account Bangalore’s water supply needs.

Then came Salve’s turn, who stood up on his own to make submissions on behalf of some citizen groups from Bangalore, claiming Article 21 rights.

Naphade objected to his intervention, questioning his locus, and told the bench that he was actually trying to argue on behalf of Karnataka by proxy.

Lighter moments

But for the lighter moments, the tense moments would have completely overshadowed the proceedings. When Nariman, again and again interrupted Naphade from arguing, Naphade asked him, “Mr Nariman, if you don’t want me to make submissions, I will sit down. You can argue.”

Not to give in, Nariman told the bench: “You can record my submission. It will be wrong to issue interim order. I have more experience than anyone else in this court.”

This led to snide remarks from listeners, in the court room of “so what?”.

Senior counsel, Rakesh Dwivedi, representing Tamil Nadu, objected to Nariman’s trying to influence the bench from going ahead with the interim order, calling it as inappropriate for a senior counsel like him, to threaten non-compliance with the interim order, even before it was delivered.

When the bench wanted to hear Naphade, at one point, when repeated interventions from Nariman stopped, Naphade said: “My Lord, my throat is affected. (meaning he needed water to drink).

To which Nariman said: “I can’t spare any water”, plunging the court to laughter.

The bench too added a bit, by giving the wrong figure of six cusecs of water, while dictating the order, only to be corrected immediately by all that it should be 6,000 cusecs.

Justice Dipak Misra said: “Let it be a lighter moment”.

Analysts say today’s order is significant in that for the first time the court realised the importance of Cauvery Management Board, and asked the Centre to constitute it within four weeks.

Both Karnataka and TN agreed to it.

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