Himachal’s U-turn on water for Delhi draws Supreme Court ire : The Tribune India

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Himachal’s U-turn on water for Delhi draws Supreme Court ire

Himachal’s U-turn on water for Delhi draws Supreme Court ire

Photo for representation. File photo



Tribune News Service

Satya Prakash

New Delhi, June 13

Noting that it didn’t have the expertise to decide the “complex and sensitive issue”, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Delhi Government to approach the Upper Yamuna River Board (UYRB) for an additional 150 cusec water to deal with the peak summer water crisis in the national capital.

“The issue should be left to be considered by the UYRB, a body constituted with the agreement of parties in the MoU dated May 12, 1994,” a Vacation Bench led by Justice PK Mishra said.

The order came after the Himachal Pradesh Government retracted from its earlier statement and said it had no surplus water left for Delhi, and whatever it had had already been released. The top court warned the State of Himachal Pradesh of contempt of court action for misleading it, saying it was on the basis of their statement that it had passed an order on releasing surplus 137 cusec water available with it from the upstream so that the water reached Hathnikund Barrage and then reached Delhi through Wazirabad Barrage.

However, Himachal Pradesh Advocate General Anup Kumar Rattan today withdrew the state’s earlier statement and categorically said the state did not have additional 137 cusecs water as on date. The Himachal Pradesh Government’s flip-flop invited the wrath of the Supreme Court, which warned its officials of contempt of court action for making contradictory statements before it.

Such was the anger of the Vacation Bench, which also comprised Justice PB Varale, that Advocate General Rattan had to withdraw the state government’s earlier statement on “availability” of surplus water to be supplied to Delhi via Haryana. Basing on the statements made by a Himachal Additional Advocate General that the state had 137 cusecs of surplus water which would be released, the top court had on June 6 directed that “the State of Himachal Pradesh shall release 137 cusecs available with it from the upstream so that the water reaches Hathnikund Barrage and then reaches Delhi through Wazirabad.”

However, when the State of Haryana communicated and requested the State of Himachal Pradesh to inform them about the release of additional 137 cusecs of water as per the top court’s order, the Jal Shakti Vibhag of the State of Himachal Pradesh informed the Engineer-in-Chief, Haryana, Irrigation Department on June 6, 2024 that 137 Cusec of unutilised Yamuna water share of Himachal Pradesh was already flowing uninterruptedly from the territory of Himachal Pradesh to Tajewala (Hathnikund Barrage) in Yamuna river.

“The officer who has supplied that chart is saying that we have excess water of 137 cusecs and the Additional AG was not properly apprised of the situation. Now, you are issuing a letter that 137 cusecs is already in the pipeline... If you have excess water and you are not supplying that excess water, you are in contempt,” the Bench noted.

When the Bench made a pointed query to Rattan as to the manner in which he would reconcile the statement made before the top court by his Additional Advocate General under instructions of the Engineer-in-Chief and the contents of the communication dated June 6, 2024, the Advocate General said the earlier statement regarding “availability” of surplus or additional water was not correct and that he should be permitted to withdraw that statement.

Rattan said in view of the contents of the communication dated June 6, 2024, the State of Himachal Pradesh did not have additional 137 cusecs of water as on date. “You do not understand the repercussions of your statement to cover up the earlier statement…. made such a casual statement before the court without understanding the ramifications,” Justice Mishra said.

“In view of the statement made by learned Advocate General for the State of Himachal Pradesh before this court today, the very basis of our interim order dated June 6, 2024, does not survive and we have reached to the stage where we were placed on the date of filing of the writ petition,” the Bench said. Finally, it asked the Delhi Government to approach the Upper Yamuna River Board for additional 150 cusecs of water.

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