Cauvery: SC slams Centre’s inaction

Asks Centre to submit draft scheme by May 3

New Delhi: The Supreme Court yesterday rapped the Union government for failing to frame a scheme for implementing its Feb. 16 judgement on sharing Cauvery river water by Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry. The SC ordered the Centre to submit a draft scheme on May 3. The Court directed both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka governments to ensure that people maintained peace till it put the stamp of approval on the final scheme.

A Feb. 16 judgement, the Supreme Court had directed the Centre to frame the scheme by Mar. 29. Yet, on the eve of the deadline, the Centre moved the court for another three months to frame the Cauvery scheme. This would have taken it well past the Karnataka Assembly election scheduled on May 12.

“You are bound by our decree… you are obliged to frame the scheme. We are surprised that it was not done… We have delivered the judgement after much study and difficulty… yet you did not show the resolve to frame the scheme,” a Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud told Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal, representing the Centre.

Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, representing the TN government, submitted that the scheme to be framed according to the judgement, has not been done by Mar. 30. He was arguing on an application filed by the State for seeking contempt action against top officials of the Union government.

Venugopal submitted that so far, the Centre has sent notices to the four States and sought their opinions on framing the scheme. “They (States) have got no roles. That stage is gone. This can’t happen,” the Bench said.

Naphade then submitted that the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal had directed setting up of the Cauvery Management Board. He said the State was suffering due to non-release of water. On this, the Bench said, “The Tribunal’s order has now got merged with our judgement.”

“We can’t monitor the matter for a long time. We do not know why you did not do it (frame the scheme) and why you did not show your resolve to do it. You file a scheme, we will issue directions to implement it,” the Bench told Venugopal. The Court gave the top law officer time till May 3 to submit a draft scheme.

The Union government had earlier filed an application seeking three more months to work out the modalities of water-sharing, citing the Karnataka elections on May 12 and saying the issue had an “emotive” value over there.