SC can’t intervene, says Centre

Farmers take out a rally in Thanjavur seeking the immediate constitution of a Cauvery management board. File photo: M. Moorthy  

In its review petition filed in the Supreme Court on Saturday, Karnataka said the order to direct the release of water and form the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) was in “violation” of the National Water Policy of 2012, which placed the requirement of drinking water as first priority over needs of irrigation.

In the previous hearing on September 30, the Centre had assured the apex court that it would arrange for the CMB to visit the Cauvery basin sites and submit a ground report in court by October 6. On Monday, it scrapped the idea.

Instead, the Centre suggested that the Secretary, Union Water Resources Ministry, set up a ‘high-power technical team’ in his capacity as the Chairman of the Cauvery Supervisory Committee. This team would be led by G.S. Jha, Chairman of the Central Water Commission. It would proceed immediately to inspect the Cauvery basin and report back to the Supreme Court in 30 days.

In an urgent mentioning on Monday, Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi said the apex court had no jurisdiction to direct the formation of CMB under Article 262 of the Constitution and provisions of the Inter-State River Disputes Act, 1956.

Article 262 allows a parliamentary law — Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956 — to forbid the Supreme Court from intervening in inter-State water disputes.

Section 6 (2) of the 1956 Act gives the orders of tribunals set up by the government under it the same force as an order of the Supreme Court. In short, the statutory law excluded the Supreme Court from intervening against the 2007 final order of the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal (CWDT).

Again, once the tribunal has pronounced a final order, it would fall on the Centre to prepare a water-sharing scheme based on the award of the tribunal. This scheme would be forwarded to the Parliament for promulgation. It was the Parliament’s sole right “to annul, vary, modify the Centre’s scheme.”

“The Supreme Court, by ordering the setting up of the CMB, has denuded the Centre of its powers under the 1956 Act to frame a scheme based on the tribunal award. The final say is vested in the Parliament,” the Centre said.

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