Headless Cauvery Tribunal unable to decide on Tamil Nadu plea

The Centre is yet to take a decision on Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s request, made in April to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, for appointing a new Chairman to the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal after Justice N.P. Singh resigned his post on health grounds.

As a result, the Tribunal is unable to function to decide on Tamil Nadu’s applications seeking certain directions against Karnataka government.

Within days of Justice Singh’s resignation, Ms. Jayalalithaa sought the Prime Minister’s intervention. She said that as per Section 5A of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956, the Tribunal proceedings could continue only if a person was nominated as Chairman. “The Tribunal had given its final order on February 5, 2007 allocating Cauvery water among the States. However, the order was yet to be notified. Petitions under Section 5(3) of the ISRWD Act, seeking explanation or guidance by the party-States and the Centre have been pending before the Tribunal since 2007,” Ms. Jayalalithaa said

As only a sitting Supreme Court Judge, who is on the verge of retirement could be appointed Chairman, it was expected that Justice Deepak Verma, who is due to retire at month-end, could be considered for the post. However, the post has not yet been filled. Now, Justice Swatanter Kumar, who is due to retire at the end of December, is the likely choice available before the Centre.

As a result of the delay in the appointment, Tamil Nadu’s application to restrain Karnataka from proceeding with summer irrigation could not be taken up and it was forced to move the Supreme Court for relief.

The Tribunal was constituted on June 2, 1990 and by an interim award on June 25, 1991, it directed Karnataka to release 205 tmcft each year to Tamil Nadu at Mettur. Of this, Tamil Nadu was to release 6 tmcft to Puducherry.

The Cauvery River Authority was constituted in 1998 to ensure proper implementation of the interim award. The Tribunal, after holding sittings for over 500 days spread over 17 years, gave its final award in February 2007. For Tamil Nadu, it recommended 419 tmcft (as against the demand for 562 tmcft); Karnataka 270 tmcft (465 tmcft); Kerala 30 tmcft; and Puducherry 7 tmcft. The actual release by Karnataka to Tamil Nadu is 192 tmcft annually; from this Tamil Nadu will release 7 tmcft to Puducherry.

As applications seeking review of the final award were filed, the Tribunal continued to function. Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala filed appeals challenging the award in the Supreme Court and these are pending.

Justice Singh (80), who was appointed Chairman of the Tribunal a few days prior to his superannuation as judge in December 1996, remained in office for about 16 years.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2022 9:40:40 PM |

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