Chennai: The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up the central government for not framing a scheme for effective implementation of its order on Cauvery water sharing between Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.
The scheme includes setting up of the Cauvery Management Board and a monitoring authority for ensuring timely release of water to the three states.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra directed the central government to submit the scheme by 3 May and asked the states to maintain peace until then.
“Please remember that our order must be complied with. Every time the court cannot monitor the implementation of an order. Frame the draft scheme, send it across to the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Pondicherry and let them approve it," Misra told the centre.
The government citing assembly elections in Karnataka sought time beyond 12 May (election day) for putting the scheme in place.
The court was hearing Tamil Nadu’s contempt petition against cabinet secretary P.K. Sinha and Union water resources secretary U.P. Singh for failing to constitute the Cauvery Management Board within the stipulated six weeks. The last date for setting up the board was 30 March.
The state government has sought initiation of contempt proceedings against the officials for failing to abide by the court order.
On 16 February, the apex court ordered 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 the earlier quantum of 192tmcft.
The court also allocated an additional 4.75tmcft to Bengaluru to meet the drinking water and domestic requirements of the “global city". As a result, Karnataka will now receive 284.75tmcft as against the 270tmcft it gets at present.
The new water sharing scheme would be applicable for the next 15 years. Allocation to Tamil Nadu now stands at 414.25tmcft annually, which includes 10tmcft on account of availability of groundwater. Kerala and Puducherry continue to receive 30tmcft and 7tmcft, respectively.
The three-judge bench headed by 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 the 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 judgement 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.
In Tamil Nadu, meanwhile, opposition parties led by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) that began a “Cauvery Rights Retrieval March" near Trichy on Saturday, launched its second phase at Ariyalur on Monday. Both marches will end with a public meeting in Cuddalore on 12 April.
Political parties, farmers’ associations, students’ organizations, lawyers, individuals and various other outfits across Tamil Nadu and Puducherry have been protesting over the past week, with road and rail blockades and attempts to lay siege to central government buildings.
With demands to boycott this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL) matches in Chennai, security was tightened near the M.A. Chidambaram stadium ahead of Tuesday’s match between Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders.