Cauvery: Supreme Court slams Centre’s inaction

A view of the Supreme Court in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

The Supreme Court on Monday rapped the Centre for not framing a water-sharing scheme for the Cauvery and ordered it to prove its “bona fides” by submitting a draft scheme by May 3.

The three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra expressed its disappointment over the Centre’s lack of resolve to play its part in ending the water conflict between neighbours, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

A February 16 judgment of the Supreme Court had directed the Centre to frame the scheme by March 29. Yet, on the eve of the deadline, the Centre moved the court seeking another three months to finish the task. This would have taken it well past the Karnataka Assembly election scheduled on May 12.

‘You didn’t show resolve’

“You are bound by our decree... you are obliged to frame the scheme. We are surprised that it was not done... We have delivered the judgment after much study and difficulty... yet you did not show the resolve to frame the scheme,” Chief Justice Misra said, addressing Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal, for the Centre.

Tamil Nadu counsel and senior advocate Shekhar Naphade said that, in India, litigation starts after the court decree.

‘It will be binding’

“Absolutely right. Now you [the Centre] must show your bona fides by framing a scheme... you should show respect to the principle of distribution of water... Let the draft scheme be filed before the court... you (the States) can give your suggestions... When the scheme comes into effect, it will become binding,” Chief Justice Misra said.

The court was primarily hearing a contempt petition filed by Tamil Nadu against the Centre. The Bench, also comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, asked the people of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to maintain peace “so that the court can put its final stamp on the scheme.”

“Please tell your people, when the matter is before us, they must co-operate,” Chief Justice Misra said.

‘Ruling clear’

Mr. Naphade, along with advocate G. Umapathy, replied that the people were only conveying their anguish.

“Your Lordships’ judgment of February 16 is crystal clear. Anyone who understands elementary English will understand it. Yet the Centre says it is not clear,” Mr. Naphade said.

Chief Justice Misra allayed Tamil Nadu’s fears that a draft scheme would provoke another round of litigation while its farmers are suffering. “We will ensure it (scheme) is implemented,” Chief Justice Misra told Mr. Naphade.

Mr. Naphade sought clarity about the setting up of the Cauvery Management Board.

“The statute says ‘scheme.’ Our judgment says ‘scheme’,” Chief Justice Misra replied.

“But a scheme ultimately must provide for a Board or an implementing authority,” Mr. Naphade persisted.

“Obviously!” Chief Justice Misra reacted.

When Mr. Venugopal said the Centre needed clarifications about the structure of the Board, etc, Chief Justice Misra replied sharply: “Every time, the Supreme Court cannot monitor.”

Mr. Venugopal asked whether the Board should have engineers alone and not administrative members.

“We don’t know... You implement it. Please remember, our order has to be complied with... You better implement our decree,” Chief Justice Misra said.

He said the parties, especially the Centre, need not be bothered about the Cauvery Tribunal award of 2007. “The tribunal order has merged with the decree,” Chief Justice Misra said.

Tamil Nadu has accused the Centre of not “protecting the interests of the farmers and the larger interests of the State.”




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Printable version | Oct 23, 2021 10:57:47 AM |

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