Supreme Court Asks Yamuna River Board To Decide Delhi Govt's Plea For Additional Water; HP Govt Withdraws Statement On Surplus Water

Update: 2024-06-13 08:54 GMT
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The Supreme Court (today on June 13), disposed of the Delhi Government's plea seeking directions to the State of Haryana for immediate release of water to the crisis-hit national capital. While doing so, the Court directed the Delhi Government to approach the Upper Yamuna River Board (UYRB), saying that the issue concerning the sharing of the Yamuna water between States is a complex...

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The Supreme Court (today on June 13), disposed of the Delhi Government's plea seeking directions to the State of Haryana for immediate release of water to the crisis-hit national capital. While doing so, the Court directed the Delhi Government to approach the Upper Yamuna River Board (UYRB), saying that the issue concerning the sharing of the Yamuna water between States is a complex and sensitive issue.

A Vacation Bench of Justices Prashant Kumar Mishra and Prasanna B Varale added that the Court does not have the expertise to deal with the issue of water sharing.

The issue should be left to be considered by the body constituted with the agreement of parties in MOU dated 1994. Since the Upper Yamuna River Board (UYRB) has already directed Delhi to submit an application for the supply of additional 150 cusecs of water on humanitarian grounds, such an application be made, if not already made, by today by 5 pm, and thereafter the UYRB shall convene a meeting tomorrow and take decision in the matter at the earliest. If need be, the board can convene the basis on day to day basis. The Writ petition is disposed off.,” the Court ordered.

The Court also noted that this issue has become a part of recurring litigation. In today's order, it was also noted that a similar application was filed before the Court in 2018, and subsequently, a committee was appointed. Then also, the Court refused to issue any direction to the State of Haryana.  

In this context, the Court also recorded the submissions of Additional Solicitor General Vikramjeet Banerjee, for the Board. He submitted that the issue can be resolved by the board and not by the Apex Court, which does not have the necessary expertise in the matter. Similarly, the State of HP also submitted that that issue can be resolved by the parties.

Withdrawal Of Statement By The State Of Himachal Pradesh About The Availability Of Surplus Water 

Pertinently, on June 06, the Court, taking note of the stand of the Himachal Pradesh Government that they have additional water,  had directed them to transfer 137 cusecs of water to the Hathnikund barrage in Haryana and asked the Haryana Government to facilitate the transfer of the surplus water received from HP to Delhi.

However, yesterday, the Court pointed out that the letter filed by the Himachal which suggested that it had no surplus water left as it had already been released. Warning the State of Contempt, Court said “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 is already in the pipeline….If you have excess water and you are not supplying that excess water, you are in contempt.

During the course of today's hearing, HP's Advocate General, who was present virtually before the Court, tried to give clarification. He told the Court that the officer was present (virtually) and apologised. He averred that the intent was not made clear. However, the Court rebutted the same, saying that it is a serious and sensitive problem.

You do not understand the repercussion of your statement to cover up the earlier statement….made such a casual statement before the Court without understanding the ramifications.”

The Court, without mincing any words, said that had this not been such an emergent matter, it would have kept this pending to haul the State up for contempt. In this context, the Court recorded the following, in its order:

“…when the State of Haryana requested the state of HP to inform them about the release of additional 137 cusecs water, as per the Court's order, the Jal Shakti Vibhag informed....via its letter dated June 6th that 137 cusecs unutilised water is already river Yamuna. In course of hearing today when we confronted…Ld. AG would submit that the earlier statement made regarding the availability of surplus/ additional water was not correct, and he may be permitted to withdraw that statement. He would submit that in view of what is mentioned in the communication dated June 6th, the State of HP is not available with additional 136 cusecs of water.

In view of the statement made by AG of HP, the very basis of our interim order of June 6th, 2024 does not survive, and we have reached square one to the stage where we were pleased on the date of filing the Writ Petition.”

Apart from this, yesterday, the Bench raised serious concerns regarding the loss of water in Delhi due to several factors like the Tanker mafia. While asking the Delhi Government if any action has been taken against the same, it also categorically said that, in case of inaction, the matter will be handed over to the Delhi Police.

Accordingly, the Court ordered the Delhi Government to file an affidavit against the action taken for the illegal transportation of water and adjourned the matter to today.

Senior Advocate AM Singhvi, appearing virtually for the GNCTD, submitted that everything that goes towards augmenting the water availability will be done. He also suggested that the Court appoint a committee to resolve this issue. Saying that technical proceedings are not a solution to Delhi's imminent water crisis, Singhvi also pointed out the measures taken by the Delhi Government in its attempt to resolve the crisis.

separate instructions like not washing your car have been issued. Your Lordship may give any other direction; we will be happy to implement it. This is a joint effort.”

Singhvi, alongwith with advocate Shadan Farasat, also highlighted that the water level in Wazirabad is not maintained at its optimum level.

It may be noted that earlier, the Court had asked the Upper Yamuna River Board (UYRB) to call for an emergent meeting of all stakeholder states on June 5 and submit the Minutes of the Meeting as well as the suggested steps by June 6.

In the meeting, the Board had recommended that “ to meet the drinking water requirement during the present summer season before the onset of monsoon or 30th June, 2024, whichever is earlier, Delhi Government may send a formal request to Haryana Government for consideration to release 150 cusec of additional water on humanitarian ground through DD8/CLC/DSB.”

In this regard, Farasat also apprised the Court that the petitioner had sent this request; however, they have not received the response yet.

On his turn, Senior Advocate Shyam Divan, for the State of Haryana, submitted that the water level in Wazirabad is maintained throughout. He also submitted that the present matter involves the highly technical aspects of allocation and measurement and where the measurement should take place.

He asserted that the board had been established because of its technical expertise. To support his arguments, he also cited several orders of the Apex Court asking the petitioner to approach the Board.

Lastly, he also added that maintain water level at Wazirabad is not relevant after creation of three additional water treatment plans at Bawana, Dwarka and Okhla.


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