THE SUPREME Court on Thursday pulled up the Centre for not coming up with a draft scheme to implement its judgment on distribution of Cauvery river water among the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and union territory of Puducherry. The court asked it to file an affidavit on the steps taken to frame the scheme by May 8.
Attorney General K K Venugopal, who appeared for the Centre, cited the Karnataka elections to seek more time. He asked that the hearing on setting up the scheme, under which the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) has be constituted, be deferred by 10 days as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Cabinet colleagues were busy with the poll campaign.
“We are not concerned with Karnataka elections. The scheme should have been finalised by now. States have no role to play,” said the bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
Senior Advocate Shekhar Naphade, appearing for the Tamil Nadu government, took exception to the Centre’s submission. “This is the end of cooperative federalism and the rule of law in the country. This is the partisan attitude of the Union of India to favour Karnataka,” he said. He said the Centre was playing politics, keeping in view its prospects in the Karnataka polls, and pointed out that the judgment had said that the scheme had to be framed within four weeks.
Warning of law and order problems, he said besides the summer temperature, “the temperature over Cauvery water is rising in Tamil Nadu”, adding that the government was “clueless” on what to say to the people as the draft scheme was not ready even after two months of the judgment.
The AG said the Karnataka Chief Minister had, in a recent letter, demanded that the Water Resources Ministers of the three states and Puducherry be made members of the CMB, and this had created a problem.
The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, then told the Karnataka government counsel that the state would have to release water to Tamil Nadu as per the tribunal order. “We gave time to the Centre to come up with a scheme. If that is not ready, then Karnataka must release water as per the tribunal order,” the bench said.
On opposition from the Karnataka government counsel, who said there was no contempt plea against them, the bench said: “We can take suo motu cognizance. We will summon your chief secretary if you do not release. You will have to release 4 tmcft to Tamil Nadu.” But the court later asked the state to apprise it “as to how much water can be released”.
Naphade told the bench that Karnataka had released only 1.1 tmcft in April. The Cauvery tribunal order had fixed 2 tmcft, depending on rainfall and irrigation needs.
“Two tmcft for two months is hardly any water. Tribunal had fixed a quota and you have reduced. You are bound to give them water. Let the scheme be framed. We will approve it. But you have to give them water,” the CJI told Karnataka.
In a subsequent statement, Karnataka claimed it had ensured “more water” to Tamil Nadu then what the state was entitled to receive. “The State of Karnataka would file its affidavit submitting that the share of TN in this distress water year (up to end of April 2018) was 98.06 tmcft. However, Karnataka has ensured 116.74 tmcft,” said a statement from the Karnataka government’s legal team.
“Besides, Karnataka would also submit that the live storage in Mettur in TN is 9.56 tmcft which is sufficient to meet drinking water needs in TN. Karnataka would also submit that the live storage in its four reservoirs is 9.93 tmcft which is entirely required for meeting the drinking water needs of rural and urban areas including Bengaluru.”
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