New Delhi: The Cauvery water row returned to the prime minister's court Monday with the Supreme Court saying that he can decide on Karnataka's plea to allow it to stop water release to Tamil Nadu immediately.
Soon after the apex court's clarification, Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar announced in New Delhi that the state would petition the prime minister late Monday or Tuesday to immediately stay his Sep 19 order to release 9,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu from Sep 20 to Oct 15.
The prime minister had given the order as the ex-officio chairman of the Cauvery river Authority (CRA).
Hearing a petition by Karnataka seeking relief on the ground that it was not in a position to release the water, a bench of Justice D.K Jain and Justice Madan B. Lokur said: "Our order of Sep 28 shall not in anyway be an impediment in the way of chairman CRA to take decision on review application by the Karnataka government."
Karnataka moved the apex court as it had rapped the state Sep 28 for not obeying the CRA order and directed it to release the water.
It started releasing 9,000 cusecs to Tamil Nadu daily from Sep 29, a move that has led to widespread protests in Bangalore and Cauvery basin districts of Mandya, Mysore and Chamarajanagar - 80, 130 and about 200 kms from Bangalore, respectively.
The state saw a day-long shut down Oct 6 protesting the water release. The shut down was total in Bangalore and Cauvery basin districts but response was mixed in north and coastal Karnataka.
The protests were frowned upon by the Supreme Court Monday.
Justice Jain told senior counsel Fali Nariman, who is heading Karnataka's legal team on the issue, that "all these agitations don't serve any purpose. Sometimes they may spoil a good case".
However, the protests continued Monday in Bangalore, Mandya and Mysore.
The apex court's clarification came even as the prime minister was under intense pressure Monday from central ministers from Karnataka and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs from the state to review and stay his Sep 19 directive to release the water till Oct 15.
External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, who hails from Mandya, Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge, Minister of State for Railways K.H. Muniyappa and state Congress leader H.K. Patil briefed the prime minister on the "grim" drought situation in the state.
Kharge told reporters after the meeting that they appealed to the prime minister "to resolve the problem at the earliest".
Krishna had written to the prime minister last Saturday that "the entire state (Karnataka) is waiting with bated breath to get immediate relief as otherwise it will spell disaster for the population in the Cauvery basin".
Kharge said the team informed Manmohan Singh about the drinking water needs of Bangalore, Mandya, Hassan and Mysore and water requirement for the standing crops in the Cauvery basin area in the state.
Muniyappa said the monsoon was over (June to September) in Karnataka whereas it would begin soon in Tamil Nadu, which receives most of its rains during the northeast monsoon (October to December).
A delegation of 16 BJP parliament members from Karnataka also met Manmohan Singh, pleading with him to provide immediate relief to the state.
Bangalore South Lok Sabha member and BJP general secretary H.N. Ananth Kumar told reporters after the meeting that the delegation informed the prime minister that Tamil Nadu had sufficient water and did not need water from Karnataka.
Meanwhile, the Cauvery Monitoring Committee is expected to meet in New Delhi Oct 11 to consider the report of two teams of central government officials which visited Karnataka and Tamil Nadu Friday and Saturday to assess the situation in the two states.
Earlier Monday, Shettar met Krishna in New Delhi seeking his help to prevail upon the prime minister to provide relief to the state over Cauvery water.
Karnataka has declared 150 of the state's 176 taluks or revenue subdivisions as drought hit. It says the drought is the worst in 40 years and water in the reservoirs across the Cauvery river is just adequate to meet its needs till the monsoon returns next June.
Besides Cauvery basin districts, Bangalore also is heavily dependent on Cauvery water.
Of its requirement of around 1,350 million litres daily (MLD), about 950 MLD is drawn from the Cauvery river, which has its source in Talacauvery in Kodagu district, about 330 km from Bangalore, and traverses over 800 km through Karnataka and Tamil Nadu before flowing into the Bay of Bengal.