Whose convenience counts for convening CRA — PM or CMs’?

The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up the Centre for not showing any interest in the Cauvery issue and wondered whether the Prime Minister’s Office was aware of its orders. Earlier, Additional Solicitor-General Harin Raval, appearing for the Centre, told a Bench of Justices D.K. Jain and Madan B. Lokur that the Centre had filed an affidavit on convening the Cauvery River Authority, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Justice Jain told the ASG: “The [three-page] affidavit takes us nowhere. Perhaps your officers have not read our earlier order. Have you [Centre] fixed a date for the CRA meeting?” Mr. Raval said as there should be a quorum of three members, letters had been sent to the States (Chief Ministers) seeking their consent for the meeting. So far, only two Chief Ministers had given their consent.

Justice Jain told the ASG: “It is shocking and strange. For fixing a date for the CRA meeting, you seek the convenience of the States. It is the PM who has to see his convenience for the meeting. For fixing a date, you see the convenience of the PM or the States?”

Senior counsel C.S. Vaidyanathan, appearing for Tamil Nadu, pointed to the fact that the letter seeking consent for the CRA meeting came, not from the PMO, but from a Joint Commissioner in the Water Resources Ministry. “This is the importance they give to the CRA,” he said. , adding “it shows how lightly they are treating the court order.”

Justice Jain asked the ASG whether he had read Karnataka’s counter-affidavit. (In it, Karnataka had referred to a statement by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in 2002, calling the CRA a toothless body.)

In an apparent reference to this affidavit, Justice Jain told the ASG: “You are forcing us to say something what is stated in the counter-affidavit is true.” The ASG said he had not read the affidavit. Justice Jain said: “It is shocking that the Law Officer had not read the affidavit. Who is the officer who is instructing the PMO? They are not concerned with whatever the Supreme Court says. At the last hearing, we expressed our anguish... over [the Centre] not convening the CRA... Please call the senior officer from the PMO and take instructions. I daresay the PMO may not be aware of our orders. We are short of words, we don’t want to say anything more as it involves the highest constitutional functionary.”

The ASG assured the court that he would take proper instructions, and sought adjournment till September 7. Accordingly, the Bench posted further hearing to that day.

Senior counsel Anil Divan and counsel Mohan Katarki appeared for Karnataka.