Frame scheme on Cauvery water by May 3, no escaping task: SC to Centre

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday criticised the Centre and asked it to frame a draft scheme by May 3 for implementation of judgment on distribution of Cauvery water between Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry.

The apex court criticised the Centre for neither framing the scheme in six weeks as directed by it nor approaching the court prior to the March 31 deadline to convey that it had difficulties.

The top court repeatedly told Tamil Nadu that it agrees with its grievances and criticised Centre for not acting swiftly to frame a scheme.

“You have to frame the scheme and there is no escaping this task,” the Supreme Court told the Centre on Monday.

The SC also asked competent authorities in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to maintain peace in their states till the court finalises the scheme for implementation of its judgment.

The apex court said that once the Centre devises a draft scheme – which includes the setting up of the Cauvery Water Management Board (CWMB) and Monitoring Authority for ensuring monthly releases – it will take the views of the state of Tamil Nadu, Karmataka, Puducherry and Kerala, before approving the scheme.

The Central government was reprimanded by the top court for ignoring its orders on the Cauvery River, which ask for more water to be given to Karnataka and has upset Tamil Nadu.

Judges of the apex court on Monday suggested that the Centre is acting in guile; “the Centre knows what the scheme means”, the judges said, as they ordered the governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to ensure peace in their states till the court finalises the scheme for implementation of its judgment.

The Centre had sought time beyond May 12 for framing the scheme, citing Assembly elections in Karnataka next month.

The distribution of water between neighbouring southern states has been a contentious issue for decades and has turned politically volatile ahead of the assembly elections in Karnataka which will vote on May 12.

The Centre had argued for more time to work out the modalities of water-sharing, citing the Karnataka election.

The apex court said it considered the CWDT (Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal) award and decided the water share for states, which has to be complied with.

Upset Tamil Nadu leaders including actors-turned-politicians Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan have expressed their disappointment over the delay in the setting up of the Cauvery Management Board by the government, as directed by the Supreme Court.

The SC was hearing the Centre’s plea seeking clarification on the February 16 verdict regarding setting up of a Cauvery management scheme in the river water sharing dispute that has been going on for decades.

The apex court, in its verdict, had asked the Centre to formulate a scheme to ensure compliance of its 465-page judgement on the decades-old Cauvery dispute. It modified the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal award of 2007 and made it clear that it will not be extending time for this on any ground.

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 Supreme 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.