Respond to TN plea for convening PM-headed Cauvery River Authority

The Supreme Court, while expressing displeasure at the lack of sensitivity on the part of the Centre on the Cauvery issue, has directed it to respond to Tamil Nadu’s plea for convening a meeting of the Cauvery River Authority, headed by the Prime Minister.

When senior counsel C.S. Vaidyanathan, appearing for Tamil Nadu, insisted on a direction to Karnataka to release water, a Bench of Justices D.K. Jain and Madan B. Lokur said it would pass orders after getting the responses of the Centre and that State, due in 10 days. Further hearing is posted to September 3.

In a brief order on Monday, the Bench said: “Before we pass orders on applications filed by Tamil Nadu, we would require the Union of India to place before us its response to the application, particularly to a personal request made by the Chief Minister [Jayalalithaa] to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in her letters [for convening the CRA].”

Despite the orders of this court on February 8, 2003, only one CRA meeting took place on February 10, 2003 but no decision was taken on water sharing on the basis of the distress formula (evolved by the Cauvery Monitoring Committee), the Bench noted.

It also pointed out that though a copy of Tamil Nadu’s application was served on the Centre (on July 21), this case was not entrusted to any senior law officer.

Earlier, when Mr. Vaidyanathan brought to the notice of the Bench that the CRA had not met for over nine years, Justice Jain asked counsel whether the court could direct the Prime Minister to convene the CRA and hold a meeting on a particular day.

Counsel cited precedents and said the court had given directions for convening the CRA to decide the distress-sharing formula. Justice Jain said: “The meeting is not taking place for different reasons. Can we ask the authority headed by the PM to hold the meeting and take a decision, when nothing has been done for nine years?”

When Justice Lokur asked what happened in the years after 2003, Mr. Vaidyanathan said, “There was no problem all these years and we are facing a distress situation now. It is a human problem and Karnataka, which is impounding all its waters, should be directed to release water to TN till the CRA holds its meeting.”

Emotive issue: Karnataka

Senior counsel Anil Divan, appearing for Karnataka, drew the court’s attention to a scheme under which the CRA was framed. Being an emotive issue, it was a matter to be politically resolved, he said.

Justice Jain told Wasim Quadri, counsel for the Centre, “We want to know how this issue is engaging the attention of the Union of India.” When counsel said he needed to take instructions, the judge observed, “For you [the Centre] this case [Cauvery issue] is not important and of no consequence. Don’t provoke us to say something which is not palatable to the UoI.”

In its application, Tamil Nadu said: “During the current irrigation year, 2012-2013, though the southwest monsoon is not vigorous in the Cauvery catchment, Karnataka received 21.9 tmcft of inflow in its four major reservoirs up to July 20, but it has not shared the water with Tamil Nadu.”

In another application, Tamil Nadu wanted Karnataka to release 25.373 tmcft, being the shortfall based on the distress-sharing formula.

“Tamil Nadu received only 3.604 tmcft as on August 8 in the Mettur reservoir, against the stipulated quantum of 64.706 tmcft and even on an application of the distress-sharing formula, Tamil Nadu ought to have received at least 28.978 tmcft at Mettur.”