The Haryana Government, on May 16, 2018, assured the Supreme Court that it would maintain the status quo, on the supply of Yamuna river water to the national capital till May 21, 2018 and would decide on the Delhi government’s proposed request to continue the supply. The Delhi Jal Board (DJB) told a bench comprising justices Madan B Lokur and Navin Sinha that they would withdraw their petition filed in the apex court in the matter and approach the Upper Yamuna River Board (UYRB) immediately, for continuance of release of drinking water to Delhi.
One of the functions of the UYRB, set up by the centre in 1995, is to regulate and supply water from all storage sites and barrages up to the Okhla barrage in Delhi, in accordance with the agreements between the governments of six basin states of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Delhi and Rajasthan. During the hearing, the counsel for the Delhi government told the bench that a request would be made today itself to Haryana, for continuing the status quo relating to the release of drinking water. The court asked Haryana to expeditiously decide on Delhi’s request, saying the issue involves water for drinking purposes and not for irrigation.
“Counsel for the state of Haryana says that a decision will be taken, on the request but regardless of the decision taken by the state government, the status quo will maintain till May 21, 2018. Needless to say, the state of Haryana will take an independent decision. We expect the board to meet over the next couple of days and sort out the matter amicably, between the state of Delhi and the state of Haryana,” the bench said, adding that it expected all UYRB members to attend the meeting so that the representatives of Delhi and Haryana could place their views.
“We leave it open to the board to take a call, whether it is necessary for the basin states to be represented,” the bench said, adding “The application (of DJB) is dismissed as withdrawn.”
“We are glad to note that there is finally some agreement between the government of Delhi represented through the Delhi Jal Board and the government of Haryana,” the bench noted in its order. The top court also pulled up the Delhi government for approaching the National Green Tribunal, the Delhi High Court and then the apex court in this matter and not the UYRB. “The whole purpose of the UYRB is that it should look into it, since they are a professional expert body,” the bench said, adding, “This kind of jockeying by the DJB on the back of Delhi government should not be encouraged”.
The top court was hearing DJB’s plea, which had alleged that Haryana had reduced by one-third, the supply of Yamuna water to Delhi, leading to a grave water crisis. Haryana had earlier told the court that it would continue supplying 150 cusecs of water to Delhi till May 15, 2018, over and above what it was supplying. Delhi had claimed that there was a shortfall of 120 cusecs of water of Yamuna river daily, as Haryana was supplying only 330 cusecs of water a day, as against 450 cusecs per day, which was agreed upon between the state and the union territory. The DJB had sought directions from the apex court to Haryana, to supply the entire 450 cusecs of water per day continuously and daily to the Wazirabad reservoir.
During the latest hearing, the bench asked what decision was taken by the UYRB in the matter, after which additional solicitor general ANS Nadkarni, appearing for the centre, placed before it the minutes of the meeting of the board, along with the recommendations. He said the board had decided to set up a committee to look into the issue of water supply and the panel would give their recommendations within a month. Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for Haryana, said they had agreed to examine the request to be made by the Delhi government, for the release of extra 150 cusecs of water. Senior counsel Dushyant Dave, representing the Delhi government, said the situation in the national capital was ‘extremely acute’ and as on day, they wanted 1,393 cusecs of water instead of 1,507 cusecs, which was based on the apex court’s 1996 judgement.
However, the court said, “We are sure that Haryana will take a reasonable decision quickly (on the Delhi government’s request). Let them take a decision. The board will examine it. It is for the expert body (UYRB) to do it. It is set up only for this purpose. Why should we do what an expert body has to do,” the bench said. At the fag end of the hearing, Divan said there were six basin states and if at all, Delhi withdrew additional water, there would be pro-rata reduction in water supply to other states.
Haryana had earlier told the top court that it was facing a ‘huge distress’ for water, as it was receiving only half the supply from Hathni Kund barrage located in the Yamuna Nagar district.