New Delhi/Bengaluru: The Central government on Monday asked the Supreme Court to modify the court’s earlier orders asking the Centre to form a Cauvery Management Board (CMB).
“The decision to form the CMB is Parliament’s prerogative and the court cannot ask us to do so," attorney general Mukul Rohatgi told the court.
A bench comprising justices Dipak Misra and U.U. Lalit had ordered the Union government to form a CMB on two different occasions. On 20 September, the court granted the Centre four weeks for the board’s formation and later on 30 September extended the date to 4 October, in a bid to resolve the impasse.
On both occasions, the Centre expressed the willingness to form the board, despite some reservation from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
The CMB was conceived by the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in 2007 which ordered Karnataka to release 172tmc of water in a “normal" year to Tamil Nadu. The Centre notified the award in 2013, but did not constitute a CMB.
The Centre’s case was that the tribunal’s award is itself under challenge by both states and, in any case, the court does not have the jurisdiction to entertain appeals on inter-state river water disputes under the Constitution.
The court also heard Karnataka’s plea for modification of the 30 September order, asking the state to release 6,000 cusecs of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu per day from 1-6 October.
The case will be heard next on Tuesday.
Karnataka has been at the receiving end of at least five unfavourable orders that came on 5, 12, 20, 27 and 30 September. Already facing an acute shortage of drinking water, the state government has resorted to the legislature to save itself from the apex court’s wrath, a futile exercise so far.
“Under the Constitution, all authorities in the country are bound to follow the apex court’s orders and Karnataka’s flouting the court’s orders has brought in a situation where the majesty of law has been dented," a bench comprising justices Dipak Misra and U.U. Lalit said on Friday, while warning the state against any further disobedience.
Even Karnataka’s counsel Fali.S.Nariman, who has represented the state for over three decades, said that he cannot defend the failure to implement court orders.
In its latest order on Friday, the Supreme Court directed the state to release 6,000 cusecs of water per day from 1-6 October as well as to set up the CMB by 4 October—a move viewed as losing control over state assets.
Tamil Nadu, on its part, has maintained that it is entitled to the water to save the samba crop, the second produce after kuravai, while farmers in Karnataka are yet to see even one crop.
Karnataka has already announced a drought in 68 talukas or administrative units, spread across 22 districts in the state—its second successive drought year and sixth consecutive year of deficient rainfall. The acute shortage of water in the state has seen advisories issued against sowing water-intensive crops. The total area of cultivation in Karnataka has come down from 96,200 hectares (for major crops including paddy, sugarcane, ragi, maize and pulses) to 61,600 hectares, according to the state agriculture department, Mint reported on 19 September.