"You have been flouting the law of the Act for the last five years. You have no option but to notify the final award. That is the mandate given by Parliament. No option has been given to you once the final award is made by the tribunal. You have no choice and discretion," the bench observed.
It added that the government was bound by the law under which the tribunal was constituted in 1990 to sort out the dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over water sharing of the Cauvery river.
Meanwhile, the court also directed Karnataka to release 2 tmc (Thousand Million Cubic feet) of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu and asked the Central Water Commission to file a report on the water requirement of the two states.
This criticism by the court came after it learnt that the Centre had failed to abide by its earlier undertaking to notify the award by January 31. The government wanted more time to do so. The court, however, ordered: "We direct the central government to publish the final award dated February 5, 2007 as earlier as possible, but not later than February 20."
Constituted on June 2, 1990, the tribunal had passed the final award on February 5, 2007, after concluding proceedings that extended over 16 years. Comprising chairman Justice NP Singh and members NS Rao and Sudhir Narain, it - in an unanimous award - had determined the total availability of water in the Cauvery basin at 740 tmc at the Lower Coleroon Anicut site.
According to its award, Tamil Nadu was to get 419 tmc of water (as against the demand of 562 tmc); Karnataka 270 tmc (as against its demand of 465 tmc); Kerala 30 tmc and Puducherry 7 tmc. It had reserved 10 tmc of water for reasons pertaining to environmental protection.