Indian SC pulls up TN, Karnataka over Cauvery protests

Men ride a motorcycle past a lorry which was set on fire by protesters in BengaluruThe Indian Supreme Court on Thursday rapped the governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for allowing bandhs and agitations to challenge its order passed in public interest to share Cauvery water between the States.

“We expect the governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to maintain their dignity and respect for rule of law. We reiterate that neither bandhs nor agitations can take place after the Supreme Court passed an order… Our order has to be complied with… Convey this to your governments today itself,” Justice Dipak Misra told the panel lawyers of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, after summoning them to the front of the courtroom.

The Bench, including Justice U.U. Lalit, was hearing a petition filed by P. Sivakumar, a resident of Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu, highlighting the huge losses caused by mobs who pillaged and looted in both States. The petition said people lived in danger in what resembled a war zone after violence broke out following the court’s order on September 12, rejecting Karnataka’s plea to stop the release of 15,000 cusecs to Tamil Nadu.

The petition, filed through advocate N. Rajaraman, urged the court to direct the States to act against the instigators and give damages.

“We are compelled and even constrained to say that it is the duty of the States to see that no agitation or destruction or damage takes place… People cannot be allowed to take the law into their own hands… It was obligatory on Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to prevent such a situation from arising,” Justice Misra observed.

Serving copies of the petition on the lawyers in the courtroom itself, the Bench tagged the petition to other Cauvery matters to be heard on September 20.

“We sincerely hope that wisdom may prevail among competent authorities to maintain peace. Convey it today itself that we expect both States to maintain peace, harmony, poise and dignity and respect for law,” Justice Misra told the lawyers.

The Bench referred to the judgment in the In Re Destruction of public and private property versus State of Andhra Pradesh of 2009 in which the Supreme Court laid down the law on the safeguards to be put in place by the authorities before an agitation.

The ruling had said agitations should be comprehensively videographed, the police should constantly monitor and conduct reviews of the status of an agitation and commit the agitating leaders to a prior undertaking of peace. In case of violence, the police should file a report with the State government, which should hand it over to the High Court or even to the Supreme Court for suo motu cognisance.

At the hearing, Justice Lalit asked counsel for the petitioner whether the strike against the order was still on.

“Is your information correct? We heard that the strike calmed down…,” Justice Lalit said.

But counsel responded that a rail roko was on in Karnataka today [on Thursday] and another was scheduled in Tamil Nadu for Friday. (Courtesy The Hindu)