[Exclusive]: The RTI Reports – How much has the Karnataka govt spent on the #Cauvery disputes?

Since time immemorial, the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have been at loggerheads over allocation of water from the river Cauvery. A 2007 verdict of the Cauvery Disputes Tribunal aimed to put the age-old dispute to bed, however, the states continue to bicker over the issue, especially when the monsoons are bad.

And that often translates into the two states battling out in court. In doing so, a considerable amount of money has been spent by both states in the last two and a half decades, especially on professional fees paid to the lawyers representing them.

To get an idea of just how much money is spent, we filed an RTI to determine how much the Karnataka government has spent on counsel fees since 1990. The reply to the query, given by the state Water Resources Department, reveals some interesting figures.

The Lawyers involved

First, we take a look at the state government’s go-to lawyers in the last twenty six years. All in all, a total of twenty-one lawyers have appeared for Karnataka at various instances.

Senior Advocate Fali S Nariman has been a mainstay over the years, appearing for Karnataka since 1990. During the latest round of litigation in the Supreme Court though, he had threatened to stop representing the state after criticism from the opposition leaders.

Anil B Divan has also appeared in more or less every round of litigation since 1992. The other top lawyers who have featured include Senior Advocates SS Javali, DM Nargolkar, Padmanabha Mahale, Sanjay Hegde and MV Katarki. Senior Advocates YS Chitale and TR Andhyarujina also put in appearances in the early 90s.

Senior Partner of Kochhar & Co Syed Naqvi, former Additional Advocate General of Haryana, and current legal adviser to Karnataka Brijesh Kalappa are also among the big names.

Counsel Fees

Thus far, the government has spent 37.54 crore on counsel fees alone. Add court fees to that number, and you have a sizeable expense for the state exchequer.

The lawyer charging the most fees during these disputes is Anil Divan, taking home 14.03 crore. The fact that the government has spent more than 37% of the total counsel fees it has paid to 20 other lawyers shows what an asset the veteran senior counsel has been.

Nariman is next on the list, making 8.6 crore over the years. He is followed by Javali and Katarki, who have both been paid around 4.5 crore in the last 26 years. Advocate SP Singh has also made more than 2.5 crore.

Here is a list of the lawyers who have been paid the most:

Lawyer Period Total Fees
Anil B Divan 1992-2016 14.03 crore
Fali S Nariman 1990-2016 8.61 crore
SS Javali 1990-2016 4.58 crore
MV Katarki 1990-2016 4.47 crore
SP Singh 1993-2010 2.53 crore
Brijesh Kalappa 2004-2015 82.5 lakh
SC Sharma 1991-2005, 2012-2016 63.6 lakh
VN Raghupathy 2011-2016 45.3 lakh
Ranvir Singh 2004-2016 36.1 lakh
Sanjay Hegde 2002-2010 21.8 lakh

Yearly Expense

On average, the Karnataka government has spent around 1.4 crore per year in counsel fees on the Cauvery disputes. The year in which the highest amount was spent was 2005-06, where 5.2 crore was paid to the lawyers. The years of 2012-13 and 2004-05 are not far behind, with 4.9 crore and 3.7 crore being paid as professional fees respectively. For the last five years, the total spend on counsel fees reached 12.7 crore.

Below is a list of the years where the government has spent the most:

Year Expense on counsel fees
2005-06 5.19 crore
2012-2013 4.94 crore
2004-05 3.74 crore
2002-03 2.98 crore
2016-17 2.75 crore

It would also be interesting to compare these statistics with how much the government of Tamil Nadu has spent on its lawyers over the years.

And with the Cauvery matter far from settled, we can expect these numbers to increase further, especially given the ever-increasing fees of high profile lawyers in the country.