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Cauvery dispute: Karnataka approaches Kapil Sibal to represent state in SC

LiveMint logoLiveMint 01-06-2017 Sharan Poovanna

Bengaluru: Karnataka is trying to hire senior lawyer Kapil Sibal to represent the state in the Cauvery river water dispute case in Supreme Court after the death of Anil B. Divan who previously appeared for the state, two persons aware of the development said.

The state government is beefing up its legal strategy ahead of a 12 July hearing.

“Sibal, if he takes up the assignment, will replace Divan. Fali Nariman will continue to represent the state in the matter,” one of the two people cited above said, requesting not to be named.

Sibal could not be reached for comment as he is out of the country. Sibal is a senior Supreme Court lawyer and a former law minister.

The water sharing dispute has persisted for over 150 years between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, two drought-prone states, occasionally resulting in violent clashes.

Under the Cauvery water tribunal order Karnataka, the upper riparian state, is expected to release 192 thousand million cubic feet (tmft) in a normal rainfall year to Tamil Nadu.

“We have made a request and are in the process of finding out his availability and willingness to be briefed in the matter,” the second person cited above said.

Pro-Kannada organisations held state-wide protests calling for the removal of Nariman, under whose counsel, Karnataka had received nearly five unfavourable orders in September last year.

The state government denied reports that Sibal would replace Nariman, who continues to represent Karnataka for over three decades in the case. On 10 May, after calling an all-party meet over the issue, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah said a delegation from the state would brief Nariman about whether it should go ahead with the constitution of the expert committee on the Cauvery basin management.

The court formed the panel after the central government opposed its proposal to form the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) to resolve the dispute. The CMB was conceived by the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in 2007 in which it determined the utilisable quantum of water of the Cauvery at 740 tmcft. Of this, Karnataka is entitled to 270 tmcft, Tamil Nadu (419 tmcft), Kerala (30 tmcft), Puducherry (7 tmcft) and around 14 tmcft is meant for environmental purposes. The Centre notified the award in 2013, but did not constitute a CMB, Mint reported on 18 October last year.

Apurva Vishwanath from New Delhi contributed to this story.

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