The Supreme Court on Tuesday acknowledged that both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are in dire need of water, but warned both the governments that it will not tolerate any acts of violence from its citizens over the Cauvery water dispute.
“Citizenry common sense should prevail, especially when the dispute is before us and we are trying to resolve the crisis. We warn you with absolute seriousness that citizens cannot be a law unto themselves. Peace must be maintained. Mutual respect between both States and its citizens should prevail,” the Supreme Court said.
Violence erupted in both States recently over the Cauvery dispute.
A three-judge Bench, led by Justice Dipak Misra, extended its October 4, 2016 order, directing Karnataka to release 2000 cusecs a day to Tamil Nadu. This interim arrangement would continue till the court gives further orders.
Meanwhile, the Bench, also comprising Justices Amitava Roy and A.M. Khanwilkar, will continue to hear on the question of maintainability of the appeals filed by Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala against the 2007 final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal.
The Bench said it would first pronounce judgment on the maintainability of these appeals – which it said was the fulcrum of the litigation before it – before delving into other issues regarding the water dispute.
The Centre, represented by Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi, submitted that the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals and the 2007 tribunal award was final under Article 262 of the Constitution and provisions of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956.
Mr. Rohatgi argued that Article 262 “eclipsed” the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to adjudicate on a matter of a inter-State river water use, distribution and control once a tribunal, set up under a parliamentary law, has rendered its final award.
Mr. Rohatgi submitted that in such cases the tribunal award is “deemed” to be a decision of the Supreme Court itself.
Pooh-poohing the claims of the Centre, Karnataka, represented by senior advocate Fali Nariman, said there was no such “deeming fiction”.
“Suppose, the tribunal award is flawed in the principles of natural justice or suppose it was given when a tribunal member was absent , making it a quorum non judis… does it become final? Article 136 – the appellate powers of the Supreme Court is a discretionary power…. Parliament cannot curtail the Supreme Court’s powers to render justice,” Mr. Nariman countered.
“If a parliamentary law can restrain the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction, then imagine how Parliament can make laws saying every decision of High Court which choose their fancy can be deemed to be that of a Supreme Court,” Mr. Nariman submitted.