State govt, Krishna legal team on collision course

The legal team has informed the State government its disagreement with the decision of the all-party meeting held in Bangalore on February 25 that favoured moving the apex court against the tribunal’s award.

The KWDT-II, in its order on December 30, 2010, allowed Karnataka to raise the Almatti dam height up to the originally proposed 524.25 metres and allocated 911 tmc ft (1,000 metric cubic feet) of water to the state as against 1,001 to Andhra Pradesh and 666 to Maharashtra. On behalf of the legal team, counsel Mohan Katarki had briefed the all-party meeting about the award. He had specifically advised the government against approaching the apex court in the larger interests of the state.

Describing the tribunal award as “pragmatic”, he is understood to have told the leaders at the meeting that though Karnataka was awarded 101 tmc ft less than what it claimed (1012 tmc-911 tmc), the decision of the KWDT-II was in its totality pragmatic. Karnataka should defend it as a strategy instead of attacking it.

Noting that the entire legal team was united on this, sources told Deccan Herald that the government could, however, seek clarifications from the tribunal on different points of the award without challenging the order. “You don’t always get what all you want. In the larger interest of the state and as a matter of strategy, we should not challenge,” the sources said.

Among the basin states, AP has already decided to move the apex court, while Maharashtra is still waiting for the Karnataka move. “If we do not move the court, it is unlikely that Maharashtra will challenge the order in SC. If the two states do not question the tribunal order, the court will not set it aside. The court will open the entire award only if all basin states challenge it”, the sources added. Karnataka, however, would have to be a respondent if any other state or person moves the court.

Sources point out that questioning the order may turn out to be negative for Karnataka. “The state has got a favourable order as regards the Almatti height, surplus water (though it is 101 tmc less than what it had asked for), allocation of 40 tmc for some of the projects is yet to be taken up etc. Also, AP may get rights over surplus water”. The flip side, however, is that the court may deem Karnataka as a “satisfied state” and resort to clip benefits it drew from the award.

The possibility of the legal team being replaced cannot be ruled out if the government indeed decides to go ahead with the all-party decision.

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