NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court Tuesday dropped contempt-of-court proceedings against two top Haryana government officials after the state apologised to it for its failure to honour a May 2000 order of the court to release 125 cusecs of water per day to Delhi.
A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice B.S. Chauhan gave the reprieve to the two officials after state counsel A. Bobde submitted to the court that Haryana was not able to release the water in past due to its shortage in the state.
But it has been releasing the agreed amount of water to Delhi on regular basis since May 13 when the court sought the state’s explanation for failing to comply with the order, said Bobde.
Maintaining that “it was not a case of willful or deliberate disobedience” of the court order, Bobde apologised for the state’s failure in releasing the requisite amount of water to Delhi’s Nangloi reservoir to meet the capital’s needs for potable water.
He also said that the state government officials against whom the contempt notices had been issued were also duly present in the court.
The bench on May 13 had ordered Haryana to begin releasing forthwith 125 cusec of water per day to Delhi.
The chief justice’s bench had also directed the state’s principal secretary and chief engineer of the irrigation department to be personally present in the court July 14 to explain why contempt proceeding should not be launched against them for ignoring the court order of 2000.
The May 13 order had come on a lawsuit by Delhi Jal Board, seeking contempt proceedings against Haryana officials for ignoring the court order of May 2000.
The apex court had May 10, 2000 ordered Haryana to release 125 cusecs of water to Delhi on daily basis. The order had come on a public interest lawsuit of 1992 filed by a Delhi resident, Sureshwar D. Sinha, for court directions to the central and Haryana governments to ensure a minimum flow of water in the Yamuna river to meet Delhi’s drinking water needs.
Appearing for DJB May 13 this year, senior counsel and former solicitor general Harish Salve had complained that Haryana was dithering on releasing water for Delhi, despite receiving payments for the same for Delhi.
He had said the national capital is seeking only 0.6 percent of around 9,800 cusecs of water that Haryana gets from Punjab.
Bobde, however, had said the state was getting only 9,525 cusecs of water from Punjab and it was not in a situation to release 125 cusecs to Delhi every day.
He had also contended that if the Bhakra mainline canal, carrying the water from Haryana to Delhi would not be able to sustain the water pressure and would be breached if 125 cusecs of the water was released daily.
But the lawyer appearing for the Central Water Commission had brushed aside Bobde’s contentions saying the canal was robust enough to sustain the internal water pressure.
The apex court had then ordered Haryana to start releasing water without any delay.