Centre moves SC, seeks 3 months to form Cauvery Management Board

First Published 1, Apr 2018, 10:51 AM IST
Centre moves SC seeks 3 months to form Cauvery Management Board
Highlights
  • The Centre, Tamil Nadu has moved the SC on the issue of constitution and composition of the Cauvery nt Board 
  • Tamil Nadu has sought immediate constitution of the Board, whereas, teh Centre has sought 3 months time to do so
  • The Centre's plea comes in the wake of Karnataka elections, to be held on May 12

The Centre and Tamil Nadu have moved the Supreme Court on the issue of constitution and composition of the Cauvery Management Board in compliance with the February 16 apex court verdict on the decades-old river water-sharing dispute.

The Centre sought three-months time to implement the apex court order due to the upcoming Karnataka Assembly elections.

Besides extension of time, the Centre asked for clarification on various issues for the formulation of a "scheme" for implementing the decision of the top court.

Tamil Nadu, on the other hand, sought contempt action against the Centre for "failure" to frame the scheme for the constitution of the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee within six weeks as directed by the apex court on February 16.

The Centre, in its petition, said that since there were divergent views between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka on the constitution of the CMB, the apex court should clarify whether "it is open to the central government to frame the scheme under 6A at variance with the recommendations contained in the report of the CWDT (Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal) regarding the Cauvery Management Board".

Karnataka has opposed constitution of the CMB and sought some alternative mechanism in place of any such board for complying with the scheme to implement the verdict.

The Union government also said considering overall sensitivity of the issues involved, the apex court may also clarify whether it has any flexibility in modifying the composition of the CMB to "a mixture of administrative and technical body" and "not purely a technical body" as recommended by the CWDT for active conduct of the business of the board.

It also wanted clarification on whether the board framed by the central government under Inter-State River Water Disputes (ISRWD) Act, 1956 can have functions different from the ones recommended for Cauvery Management Board by the CWDT in its report.

The Centre told the apex court that the Cauvery issue is "very emotive" in Karnataka and since the Election Commission of India (ECI) has announced the schedule for Assembly elections to Karnataka on March 27, the constitution of the CMB may result in severe law and order situation.

"If the central government is to constitute a scheme under 6A of the ISWRD Act, 1956 and notify it during the state Vidhan Sabha election process, the central government fears that it would lead to massive public outrage, vitiate the election process and cause serious law and order problem," it said.

Tamil Nadu, in its contempt plea, said that the central government was bound to give effect to the judgment by framing a scheme so that the authorities -- Cauvery Management Board and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee -- are put in place within six weeks.

It said that the authorities need to be in place so that the decisions of the tribunal as modified by the apex court are implemented by the schedule prescribed therein.

"The central government is duty bound to take steps to facilitate implementation of the judgment by itself deciding and taking necessary action to constitute the machinery as per the mandate of this court. It has not taken any concrete steps in this regard," it said.

The state government said that belatedly, after a period of three weeks, the central government had merely convened a meeting of the chief secretaries of the party states on March 9, but the convening of such a conference did not in any way make any substantial progress in the matter of constitution of Cauvery Management Board and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee.

It sought contempt action against the Centre for "willful disobedience" in carrying out the explicit mandate set out in the judgment passed by the apex court.

The state government's plea said the court should "direct the respondent (Centre) to purge the contempt forthwith by framing a scheme in accordance with the judgment dated February 16, 2018 of this court by providing for the Cauvery Management Board and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee vested with all powers to give effect to the decision of the tribunal as well as the judgment of this court." 

The apex court had on February 16 raised the 270 tmcft share of Cauvery water for Karnataka by 14.75 tmcft and reduced Tamil Nadu's share while compensating it by allowing extraction of 10 tmcft groundwater from the river basin, saying the issue of drinking water has to be placed on a "higher pedestal".

With the apex court's verdict, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Union Territory of Puducherry would be annually entitled to 404.25 tmcft, 284.75 tmcft, 30 tmcft and 7 tmcft of Cauvery water respectively out of the total of 740 tmcft.

It had granted six weeks time to the Centre to formulate a scheme to ensure compliance of its 465-page judgement on decades-old Cauvery dispute, which modified the CWDT award of 2007 and made it clear that it will not be extending time for this on any ground.

It had said its verdict on Cauvery water allocation will continue for the next 15 years.

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