New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear Tamil Nadu’s contempt petition against Cabinet Secretary P.K. Sinha and Union water resources secretary U.P. Singh for not having constituted the Cauvery Management Board within the stipulated period of six weeks. The last date for setting up the board was 30 March.

The matter was mentioned before a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra who said that it would be taken up on Monday.

The state government has sought initiation of contempt proceedings against the officials for failing to abide by the court mandate of setting up the Cauvery Management Board within six weeks from its order of 16 February to supervise implementation of the order.

On 16 February, the apex court marked the culmination of the long-standing dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and held that under the new water sharing arrangement, Karnataka would have to release 177.25 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) of water to Tamil Nadu as against an earlier quantum of 192 tmcft.

The court also allocated an additional 4.75 tmcft to Bengaluru to meet the drinking water and domestic requirements of the “global city". As a result, Karnataka will now receive 284.75 tmcft as against the 270 tmcft it gets at present.

The new water sharing scheme would be applicable for the next 15 years.

Allocation to Tamil Nadu now stands at 414.25 tmcft annually, which includes 10 tmcft on account of availability of groundwater. The states of Kerala and Puducherry continue to receive 30 tmcft and 7 tmcft, respectively.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Misra said that Cauvery waters were a “national asset and no single state could claim ownership over it". “The matter deserved to be adjudicated on a bedrock of equal status of states and doctrine of equability," Misra said.

The Cauvery water dispute is more than 150 years old and has its origins in the 1894 and 1924 agreements for water sharing between then presidency states of Madras and Mysore. These agreements will remain in force despite the fact that the Reorganization Act, 1956, has taken effect, the order stated.

The judgment was passed on a batch of appeals by Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, challenging the 2007 award passed by the Cauvery River Water Disputes Tribunal, which determined the utilizable quantum of water in the Cauvery at 740 tmcft.

The matter will be heard on 9 April.

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