SC pulls up Centre over failure to implement its order on Cauvery verdict

The Supreme Court verdict had asked the Centre to formulate a scheme to ensure compliance of its judgement on the decades-old Cauvery dispute.
The Kallanai Dam on the Cauvery river in Tiruchirapalli district of Tamil Nadu.(PTI File Photo)
The Kallanai Dam on the Cauvery river in Tiruchirapalli district of Tamil Nadu.(PTI File Photo)
Updated on Apr 09, 2018 11:13 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByBhadra Sinha

The Supreme Court on Monday criticised the Centre for failing to come with a plan to implement its judgment on the distribution of Cauvery waters and gave it until May 3 to draw up the scheme in a move that puts the government in a spot by forcing it to enforce the implementation of a decision that is unpopular in Karnataka, which goes to the polls on 12 May.

The order by a bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra effectively dismisses the government’s request to let it extend by three months, the deadline of March 29 to frame the Cauvery water-sharing scheme (between Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala, but mainly between the first two). Had the court agreed, the government would have had to do this well after the state elections. The court was hearing a contempt petition filed by Tamil Nadu after the deadline elapsed.

The apex court also directed authorities in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to ensure law and order over the contentious issue. “They must maintain peace so that the court can put its final stamp on it,” the CJI told senior advocates representing the two states.

The Supreme Court’s February 16 order reduced the quantity of water Karnataka was asked to supply to Tamil Nadu by 14.75 tmc (from 192 tmc to 177.5 tmc) and was largely seen as fair. However, Karnataka, where elections are due on May 12 and which suffered a severe drought in 2017, isn’t keen on it. Tamil Nadu wants the order to be implemented. Both states have sparred over sharing the river’s water for almost a century. Kerala and Puducherry are also parties to the case.

The order also asked the central government to come up with a scheme to implement the order. Most people saw this as a nod to the Cauvery Management Board.

Karnataka has indicated its unhappiness at the order. Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu has witnessed almost continuous protests seeking the creation of the Cauvery Management Board. In recent days, the protests have grown to include opposition to hosting Indian Premier League matches in Chennai.

Karnataka has also claimed that the SC’s verdict mentions scheme and this doesn’t necessarily mean the Cauvery Management Board. Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, appearing for Tamil Nadu, said on Monday that “the scheme ultimately must provide for a board or an implementing authority.” Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra concurred.

On Monday, a pro-Tamil outfit threatened an agitation outside the T20 game venue in Chennai on Tuesday.

The Chennai stadium will hold its first match of the season between Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders on Tuesday. The chairman of the T20 league, Rajeev Shukla, asked people not to politicise IPL and said the game was on.

Security arrangements have been stepped up at the stadium. The Tamil film industry, headlined by actor-politicians Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, observed a silent protest on Sunday amidst calls for organisers to stop the IPL games.

On Monday, the SC said it was anguished and surprised that the Centre had not taken any step to implement the verdict.

“We put in a lot of effort and struggled with the case. You (Centre) have to implement it now,” the bench told attorney general KK Venugopal.

“You must show your bonafide interest to respect our order. Frame a scheme and distribute the water,” CJI said, addressing the counsel for Karnataka, who assured the bench that water was being released as per the court directive.

Sharachchandra Lele, Distinguished Fellow at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment, said the Cauvery Management Board or a similar autonomous authority is necessary because when monsoons fail, there has to be a body that can plan the allocation of resources.

Tamil Nadu law minister CV Shanmugham expressed satisfaction over the SC order. “We believe good will arise out of today’s order,” he said.

Political parties in the state, however, expressed disappointment at the Centre being given time till May 3.

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam working president MK Stalin said protests over the demand for Cauvery board would continue and threatened that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be greeted with black flags when he visits the state to inaugurate a defence exhibition on April 12.

(With inputs from KV Lakshmana in Chennai and Vikram Gopal in Bengaluru)

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