It is the Supreme Court that has, time and again, pushed the process of resolution of the intractable Cauvery water dispute, be it at the stage of constitution of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal or the notification of final award of the Tribunal.
In May 1990, the Supreme Court directed the Central government to constitute the Tribunal, a demand made by Tamil Nadu since 1970.
When the Tribunal, in January 1991, rejected Tamil Nadu’s plea for interim relief, the State went to court, which, in April that year, directed the tribunal to entertain the petition for an interim order. Two months later, the Tribunal gave the interim award.
This triggered yet another legal row, with the Karnataka government promulgating an ordinance nullifying the Tribunal’s interim order. A presidential reference was made in July to the Supreme Court on the validity of the award and the ordinance.
Tribunal order upheld
In November 1991, the court held that the ordinance was ultra vires the Constitution. It also upheld the validity of the Tribunal order and said the award should be published by the Centre in the official gazette. In December 1991, the interim order was published in the gazette.
Again, when the Court was moved for getting the interim order executed, the Central government, in April 1997, submitted that a scheme would be framed for effective implementation of the order. In August 1998, the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) was constituted.
On several occasions in the last 10 years, the court gave orders for the release of certain quantum of water by Karnataka to Tamil Nadu.
Last year, Tamil Nadu had to approach the court once more for a meeting of the CRA to be held. It was after the court pulled up the Prime Minister’s Office that the Authority met in September, after a gap of over nine years.
The court, now and then, raised queries on the status of the notification of the Tribunal’s final report, given in February 2007. For the latest development to occur, the court, in its order of February 4, set a deadline directing the Union government to notify the final report by February 20.