Not everybody is a loser in the Cauvery dispute

Karnataka may have lost the Cauvery battle in the popular perception, but the lawyers representing the State won big because of the long-drawn dispute. A story by Chamaraja Savadi in today’s Praja Vani reveals that between 1990-91 and 2007, the State spent a grand total of Rs 22.10 crore on the 18 laywers who represented it at the apex court. That’s roughly Rs 1.22 crore per black coat.

Quoting documents procured by a Dharwad citizen, Krishna Joshi, using the provisions of the Right to Information, the story shows that, on the other hand, the State spent Rs 1.34 crore on the 10 advocates-general in the same 16-year period.

Anil B. Divan took home the lion’s share of the Rs 22 crore, with Rs 9.66 crore, followed by S.S. Javali (Rs 3.77 crore) and Mohan V. Kataraki (Rs 2.75 crore). Fali S. Nariman who has represented the State from very nearly the beginning of the dispute took Rs 2.08 crore.

The most inexpensive lawyer was Ashok Mathur whose services cost the State Rs 3,000.

The highest expense incurred by the State in the 16-year saga was in 2005-06 when it filed a review petition before the Cauvery Tribunal. The lawyers’ fees in that financial year was a grand total of Rs 5.19 crore.

Kataraki visited Bangalore 193 times to discuss the case with state officials, Javali 158 times, Shambhu Prasad Singh 138 times, Divan 46 times, Syed Naqvi 26 times, Nariman 19 times, Brijesh Kalappa 18 times, Ranveer Singh 14 times, and Sanjay Hegde seven times.

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Rs 22 crore is small change for a dispute which has such wide-ranging ramificiations. Still, the usual questions pop up: for all the money spent, did the State get the best legal talent? Was it worth it? Did the five-star lawyers put their heart and soul into the case, or was it just another case for them? Judging from some of the numbers, was it in the interest of some of the lawyers to prolong the case?