Centre to file clarification petition in SC on Cauvery water issue
The central government might file a petition by the end of the week in the Supreme Court seeking clarity on the apex court’s February 16 order on the sharing of Cauvery waters, according to a senior official in the water resources ministry.
Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu might file a contempt petition after the passing of the March 29 deadline set by the court for the federal government to form of a Cauvery management board for the sharing of the waters, according to a member of Tamil Nadu’s legal team who requested anonymity.
The petition by the central government could buy it some time and prevent it from being seen as taking a stand in favour of either Tamil Nadu or Karnataka (two of the three states and one union territory that are parties to the case) ahead of assembly elections in the latter in May, the water resources ministry official cited above said on condition of anonymity.
The Supreme Court ruling favoured Karnataka, which was asked to provide 177.25 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) to Tamil Nadu instead of the 192 TMC ordained by the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal. The order also asked for the creation of a mechanism to implement its award within six weeks by the federal government.
Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah has already said his government doesn’t agree with the court’s order. He said his government would file a review petition (it is yet to). Karnataka experienced one of its worst droughts in 2017 and is loath to share water with Tamil Nadu.
The government is likely to ask the court for clarification on whether the word scheme in its order meant the formation of Cauvery management board or any other authority for implementation of the order, according to the above official.
Karnataka has objected to the creation of the Cauvery board, saying the Supreme Court order does not talk about setting up a board but a scheme for ensuring release of water.
Karnataka raised this technicality when chief secretaries of the three states (including Kerala) and Puducherry met officials of the water resources ministry on March 9.
On Thursday, Tamil Nadu chief minister E Palaniswami held discussions with his ministers on the issue even as protests rocked the state. “Tamil Nadu will take appropriate legal action--it can be a contempt petition or a clarification petition if the centre fails to comply with court orders. The centre is just trying to delay the inevitable as SC judgement is clear on formation of the board,’’ said the member of the state’s legal team cited above.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the centre, political experts said, may want to delay implementation of the court order given the upcoming elections in Karnataka, which is governed by the Congress party under chief minister Siddaramiah.
“The Cauvery verdict was a relief for Siddaramiah,” said A Narayana, associate professor of public policy at the Bengaluru-based Azim Premji University
Meanwhile the ministry of water resources has prepared a Cabinet note suggesting the formation of a centrally managed authority to oversee the release of waters to the states in the Cauvery basin.