Apex court admits petitions challenging Cauvery waters award


New Delhi : The Supreme Court Monday admitted petitions filed by the three riparian states, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, challenging the final award given by a tribunal on the sharing of waters of the Cauvery river.

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A Bench of Justice S.B. Sinha and Justice Markandey Katju referred the petitions challenging the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal award on Feb 5 before a larger bench as important questions of law were involved.

The tribunal had awarded 419 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) to Tamil Nadu, 270 to Karnataka, 30 to Kerala and 7 to Puducherry.

Karnataka in its special leave petition questioned the method adopted by the tribunal in apportioning water to the three states and to Puducherry.

It said: "The burden of Karnataka to supply 192 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of water annually at the inter-state border Biligundlu has been fixed without any regard to 30 tmcft of water. Had that amount of 30 tmcft of water been taken into account, the burden on this score alone would have come down to 162 tmcft annually in a normal year at Biligundlu. By such glaring error in discarding 30 tmcft of water, an undue burden has been placed on Karnataka during the months of June to September."

In its petition, Tamil Nadu said that the tribunal had held valid the agreements of 1892 and 1924 (between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka), but it did not protect the existing irrigation in Cauvery basin of Tamil Nadu. It said the tribunal reduced the area from 2.9 million acres to 2.47 million acres. It had erred in granting new areas for irrigation to Karnataka, which were merely at the stage of proposal and not commenced.

Kerala contended that the effect of the Feb 5 award was to effectively put a moratorium on the present and future growth and use of water by Kerala from its own basins. It said: "present projects have been stultified and no scope has been left for the future."

It said "grant of 30 tmcft of water to Kerala is entirely illusory if one takes into account that the state has very generously given 31.3 tmcft of water to Cauvery basin area in the State of Tamil Nadu from its own basin. If this is factored into consideration, the net award to the State of Kerala is – 1.3 tmcft, if equities are worked out on a state wise basis."