Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on Monday orally assured Tamil Nadu that the court will ensure that the State gets its due allocation of the Cauvery water.
In an urgent mentioning by Tamil Nadu, a Bench led by Chief Justice Misra agreed to hear the State’s plea to initiate contempt proceedings against the Central government for its “willful disobedience” of the February 16 court judgment in the Cauvery dispute mandating it to frame a scheme for allocation of the river water among Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry.
Chief Justice Misra orally remarked that the term “scheme” used in the judgment does not mean Cauvery management board only.
This means that whatever be the nomenclature of the implementing authority, the judgment giving every interested State its due share of the river water has to be complied with.
The court has scheduled the case for hearing on April 9.
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 a Cauvery management board and a Cauvery water regulation committee as per the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal’s order of 2007.
As per the February 16 judgment, the Centre had to frame a 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 the implementation of the court order. Karnataka will have Assembly elections on May 12 and the Centre wants to delve into the sensitive Cauvery issue after the elections.
The Centre also sought clarification on certain points in the judgment. In its application, the Centre asked the 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 Cauvery management board 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 a Cauvery board with functions different from those recommended by the tribunal.
Finally, the Centre asked the Supreme Court for its opinion on the framing of a 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 a board 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 the the court that it had clearly, in its verdict, banned any extension of time to the Centre for framing a scheme.
“The Central Government was bound to give effect to the judgment 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.
It pointed out 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 a Cauvery management board and a Cauvery water regulation committee”.
Tamil Nadu said it had written to the Centre repeatedly on March 13, 21 and 23 for the constitution of a board 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 judgment itself and therefore, any delay in constituting a Cauvery management board and a 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 a Cauvery management board and Cauvery water regulation committee within the time frame and/or not making any substantial steps in that directions amount to willful disobedience of the judgement of the Supreme Court,” Tamil Nadu said.