Centre, in turn, wants three months’ extension to frame Cauvery scheme
The February 16 judgement
The State of Tamil Nadu on Saturday moved the Supreme Court to initiate contempt proceedings against the Centre for its “wilful disobedience” of the February 16 apex court judgement in the Cauvery dispute mandating it to frame a scheme to set up the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee to monitor allocation of the river water among Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry.
Tamil Nadu has accused the Centre of refusing to act to “protect the interests of the farmers and the larger interests of the State”.
The contempt petition wants the apex court to “purge the contempt forthwith” by directing the Centre to frame a scheme by providing for the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee as per the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal’s order of 2007.
As per the February 16 judgement in the Cauvery appeals, the Centre had to frame the scheme in six weeks. The deadline ended on March 29. On the eve of the deadline, the Centre moved the Supreme Court for a three-month extension for implementation of the judgment. Karnataka is having Assembly elections on May 12. The Centre wants to delve into the sensitive Cauvery issue after the elections.
The Centre has also sought clarification on certain points in the February 16 judgement. In its application, the Centre asked the apex court to clarify whether it was open to it to frame a scheme “at variance” with the tribunal’s recommendations. For one, it wanted to know whether a CMB can have a mixture of administrative and technical expertise rather than the purely technical body envisaged by the tribunal.
Secondly, the Centre asked whether it could accord the CMB with functions different from those recommended by the tribunal.
Finally, the Centre asked the Supreme Court for its opinion on the framing of the scheme under Section 6A of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act of 1956, considering the divergent views expressed between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Tamil Nadu wants the CMB as per the 2007 tribunal order, while Karnataka wants a two-layer scheme, one headed by a committee led by the Union Water Resources Secretary.
The Centre’s application, filed after the court closed this week, is pending.
Tamil Nadu, which filed the contempt petition through advocate G. Umapathy as soon as the Supreme Court Registry opened on Saturday, reminded that the apex court has clearly, in its February 16 verdict, banned any extension of time to the Centre for framing the scheme.
“Central Government was bound to give effect to the judgement by framing a scheme so that the authorities under the Scheme viz. Cauvery Management Board and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee are put in place within six weeks… It has not taken any concrete steps in this regard,” Tamil Nadu contended.
TN had written to the Centre repeatedly
It pointed how “belatedly, after a period of three weeks, the Central Government merely convened a meeting of the Chief Secretaries of the party States on 09.03.2018. The convening of such a meeting does not in any way make any substantial progress in the matter of constitution of Cauvery Management Board and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee”.
Tamil Nadu said it had written to the Centre repeatedly on March 13, March 21 and March 23 for the constitution of the CMB within the six-week time limit so that farmers do not suffer during the irrigation season commencing from June 1.
“Ensuring timely release of water is apparent in the judgement itself and therefore, any delay in constituting Cauvery Management Board and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee is to the prejudice to the farmers of State of Tamil Nadu… In the absence of any cogent reasons for not constituting Cauvery Management Board and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee within the time frame and/ or not making any substantial steps in that directions amount to wilful disobedience of the judgment of the Supreme Court,” Tamil Nadu said.