SC told Cauvery scheme pending as PM Narendra Modi, ministers busy with Karnataka elections
The Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court that it had been unable to frame the draft Cauvery water-sharing scheme by the May 3 deadline because “Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other central ministers were busy campaigning for the Karnataka assembly elections” scheduled for next week.
The Supreme Court had last month criticised the Centre for failing to come up with a plan to implement its verdict on the distribution of Cauvery waters, after the Centre sought three months to draft the scheme, which would defer it beyond the May 12 assembly elections in Karnataka where the water-sharing formula is a contentious political issue.
Attorney General KK Venugopal on Thursday asked for 10 more days from the court to frame the draft scheme, saying that it needed to be vetted by the Cabinet and could not done till now because of non-availability of the prime minister, who after returning from recent foreign visits was busy with the Karnataka polls.
Expressing its displeasure over the delay by government, a bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra asked Venugopal: “Were you not supposed to frame the draft scheme by May 3 ?” The court asked the Centre to file an affidavit by May 8 stating the steps it had taken to frame a scheme that would ensuring the sharing of Cauvery waters among Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.
The court also expressed its frustration with the Karnataka government and directed it to release 4 tmc (thousand million cubic litres) water to Tamil Nadu as per the tribunal’s order, failing which the state’s chief secretary would be summoned by the court..
The Supreme Court is hearing a contempt petition by Tamil Nadu against the Centre for allegedly violating the top court’s February 16 verdict on the Cauvery water distribution. On April 9, the court had directed the Centre to keep a draft scheme ready by May 3 to end the dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
The Tamil Nadu government on Thursday warned of a law-and-order problem in the state if a scheme wasn’t announced. Senior counsel Shekhar Naphade, appearing for the state, told the court that the Centre has politicised the issue to boost the BJP’s fortunes in the Karnataka elections. “Besides the weather temperature, other temperatures are also rising in the state. What should we tell our people that this court’s order cannot be implemented,” he said.
“We are not concerned with the Karnataka elections. The scheme should have been finalised by now. States have no role to play,” CJI Misra told Venugopal, who said Karnataka had on April 26 written to the Centre asking for a committee that would include the water resources minister of the state. “The scheme needs to be approved by the Cabinet,” Venugopal said.
Justice Misra responded by saying that the Centre should have stuck to the court’s deadline. “We gave time to the Centre to come up with a scheme. If that is not ready, Karnataka must release water as per the tribunal order.”
Reacting to the court’s order, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah said: “ I am yet to get full details on the issue. But where is the water to release? I will discuss with our legal experts on the next course of action.”
In Tamil Nadu, DMK leader M K Stalin has threatened to launch a ”bigger, longer protest” if the Centre continued to delay constituting a Cauvery Management Board.