The Supreme Court today sternly told Karnataka to release up to four tmc ft of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu for the March to May period or be ready to face the consequences. Within minutes, Chief Minister of poll-bound Karnataka’s Chief Minister Siddaramiah said his State had no water to spare.
The court said it would issue a formal order after hearing from Karnataka how much water it had released so far as per the award of the tribunal and posted the case to next Tuesday. The court directed Karnataka to come back with the date of water released so far and the storage position in its reservoirs on that day. The first bench, comprising Chief Justice Deepak Misra and Justices A M Kanwilkar and D YChandrachud, gave this direction when it resumed hearing on the issue of formulating a scheme for the formation of a Cauvery management board.
The bench turned its attention to Karnataka after Attorney-General K K Venugopal pleaded that scheme was awaiting the approval of Union Cabinet as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was busy with Karnataka Assembly elections due on May 12. Rejecting this, the Chief Justice snapped:” We are not bothered about polls. The scheme should have been in place by now”. The CJI also rejected the excuse of Venugopal that Karnataka wanted the proposed management board should have in it Chief Ministers of basin States and not officials or experts. The CJI reiterated that” States had no role in this”.
The Centre has consistently sought more time to frame the scheme since the Supreme Court gave its final order on Feb 16 on the issue. It then directed the Centre to frame a scheme by the first week of April. The Centre pleaded for time and the court adjourned to May 3, firmly saying that no more time would be given.
Tamil Nadu accused the Centre of "politicizing the issue" and worrying more about the elections in Karnataka. "Centre doesn't want to frame the scheme now", Tamil Nadu counsel said and asked 'what shall we tell our people”. The CJI said regardless of when the management board comes into existence, “we shall safeguard the interests of Tamil Nadu”. When Tamil Nadu counsel said there was acute drinking water scarcity, the judges told Karnataka to release up to 4 t.m.c.ft for the March-May period.
The court has directed the Centre to inform it what steps were taken to frame the scheme for monitoring the release of water to Tamil Nadu.Delta farmers said that the four t.m.c.ft would be barely enough to meet drinking water needs and they could raise the short-term kuruvai crop only if they were assured of 100 t.m.c.ft water from June to August. Usually, Mettur is usually opened for cultivation by June 12 provided it has sufficient storage and that depends on the quantum of water released by Karnataka.
The Supreme court has asked Karnataka on Thursday to release 2 tmc of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu and on failure to do so, it will face serious consequences.The Supreme Court empathised with the grievances faced by Tamil Nadu also criticised the Centre for not implementing the SC judgement on the distribution of the Cauvery Water. ‘You have to frame the scheme, there is no escaping this task’ the SC rebuked the Centre.
The Supreme Court in a verdict two months ago has asked the Centre to frame a scheme by May 3 for the implementation of the judgement on the distribution of Cauvery Water between Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Pondicherry. Despite the verdict being passed two months ago, no action has been taken by the Centre regarding the task.The AG has requested the court to extend the hearing on this issue after the Karnataka assembly elections that are on May 12. Attorney General K K Venugopal stated to the court that the scheme had to be approved by the Cabinet which could not meet due to the unavailability of the Prime Minister, who after returning from his foreign trip has gone to Karnataka for the election campaign.
TN counsel Shekhar Naphade accused the Centre of playing politics in the decade-old Cauvery dispute and said such attitude would amount to end of federalism in the country as well as rule of law.‘What do we tell the people of TN as no scheme is framed even two months of SC judgement on Cauvery water sharing?’ Naphade asked the Apex court. On February 16, Supreme Court had raised the 270 tmc ft share of Cauvery water for Karnataka by 14.75 tmc ft and reduced Tamil Nadu’s share and compensated it by allowing 10 tmc ft groundwater from the river basin, stating that the issue of drinking water has to be placed on a ‘higher pedestal’.