New Delhi: In a major setback to Tamil Nadu government led by J Jayalalithaa, the Supreme Court on Monday said that the need to supply drinking water to millions in Karnataka is more important than its own irrigational needs.
According to reports, the apex court made its observation while hearing a petition filed by the Tamil Nadu government on January 22 seeking compensation for the damages to the crops caused by Karnataka’s failure to release water as per the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal award.
The apex court said that the drinking water needs of the Karnataka must get precedence over the irrigational needs of the Tamil Nadu.
However, the apex court also asked the Karnataka government to make a submission on its annual drinking water usage by tomorrow.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister had earlier filed a civil suit seeking compensation from Karnataka on the basis of findings of the Cauvery Monitoring Committee that suggested Karnataka failed to release Tamil Nadu`s share of water.
The Tamil Nadu government claimed that the failure to release water by the neighbouring state had resulted in damage to crops in the state`s rice belt.
In a two-page release, Jayalalithaa said failure on the part of Karnataka to release water from its four reservoirs hit cultivation of the short-term kuruvai and long- term samba crop this year, besides thermal power generation.
She also detailed the efforts taken by her government, including suits filed in the SC seeking its intervention to direct Karnataka to release water to save withering crops in Tamil Nadu`s delta districts.
"Owing to my persistent efforts and the intervention of the SC, Karnataka was compelled to release water. Based on the directions of the SC, I went to Karnataka seeking release of 53.4 tmcft, the due share of Tamil Nadu before December and another 30tmcft in a fortnight. But Karnataka refused to release even a drop of water," she said.
The Cauvery Monitoring Committee, which met on January 10, upon directions from the court noted in its minutes that Karnataka had failed to release 31.4tmcft of water as per the distress sharing formula evolved by the Central Water Commission for the period between June and December last year.