New Delhi: Karnataka told the Supreme Court Tuesday that it cannot spare any more water for Tamil Nadu as it would affect the water needs of its own people.
"We don't say that their (Tamil Nadu) irrigation has not suffered. It is suffering. Ours is also suffering. But that is a different issue. Here we are talking of drinking water," senior counsel Fali Nariman, appearing for Karnataka, told judges R.M. Lodha and J. Chelameswar.
As Karnataka appeared unrelenting on releasing more water as sought by Tamil Nadu, senior counsel C.S. Vaidyanathan, appearing for Tamil Nadu, told the court that "their (Karnataka's intention is not to give anything. My people will go without water".
Alleging that lower riparian states are suffering because of upper riparian states, he said: "You (Karnataka) utilize (water) lavishly and extravagantly and exhaust it."
The court was hearing cross petitions by Tamil Nadu and Karnataka rooted in the Sep 19, 2012 interim order of the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) directing Karnataka to release 9,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu every day till Oct 15, 2012.
The apex court had Sep 28 pulled up Karnataka for not complying with the direction of CRA, which is headed by the prime minister.
With both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu not budging from their positions, Justice Lodha suggested that the matter be referred to CRA to look into the Cauvery Monitoring Committee's decision on release of water.
"An order was passed by CMC. You are aggrieved with it. You can go before CRA, and if you are still not satisfied, then you can come to us. That is the logical course to follow," Justice Lodha told Vaidyanathan.
As Vaidyanathan resisted the suggestion, Justice Lodha adjourned the hearing: "Let it then come on Feb 4" when the case is listed for hearing.
Noting that Karnataka was not acting above board, Justice Lodha said: "We would have sent you to CRA. But the problem is that you are not adhering to it. If we find that you are not following the orders of the Authority, then we will have to intervene."
Wondering how could the water release for 2013 could be decided taking 1990 as base year, the court observed that it was a "jugglery of figures, some taken from here and some taken from there".
"Would it not amount to diversion?" asked Justice Chelameswar when Nariman said the Cauvery Water Tribunal Award had only taken into account only 36 percent of Bangalore's area for drinking water supply while 60 lakh people lived in the remaining two-thirds of the city.
"This is changing the stand", Justice Lodha observed.