Being upper riparian state, Karnataka suffered the most: SC

Being upper riparian state, Karnataka suffered the most: SC

The Supreme Court on Friday emphasised the principle that the inter-state water is a national asset and no state can claim exclusive right over it.

The court, however, enhanced the Karnataka's share after noting the historical facts which demonstrated constraints suffered by it resulting in limited access and use of the surface flow of Cauvery in spite of being the upper riparian state, compared to Tamil Nadu, then Madras presidency.  The court also found severe drought conditions prevailed in its 28 districts and taluks.

A three-judge bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Amitava Roy and A M Khanwilkar relied upon the judgement in the Presidential Reference (1991) that has held that waters of an inter-state river passing through corridors of the riparian states constituted a national asset and no single state can claim exclusive ownership of its water.

The reference was made to the apex court after the state passed the Karnataka Cauvery Basin  Irrigation Protection Ordinance, 1991.

Deciding separate appeals against Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal's decision of February 5, 2007, the bench said, "We endorse the view of the tribunal in the attendant perspectives that the acknowledged principle of distribution and allocation of waters between the riparian states has to be done on the basis of their equitable share."

The court also noted that with the evolution of the principle of equitable apportionment, which is really to ensure equal justice to the basin states, the concept of prescriptive right or right to the  natural flow of any inter-state river has ceased to exist.

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