The Supreme Court on Thursday directed Karnataka to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu to meet its urgent need in April-May, and warned the state of “consequences” if it did not comply with its order. The court also asked the Centre to apprise it on May 8 about steps taken for setting up of the Cauvery Management Board for implementation of its judgment on distribution of the river water among Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry.
A bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra assured Tamil Nadu of getting water. “State (Karnataka) must release water…you have to release water or face the consequences.” During the hearing, the court initially asked Karnataka to release 4 tmcft water by May 8, then asked it to release 2 tmcft water. Later, it asked the Karnataka counsel to apprise the bench “as to how much water can be released” by the next date of hearing.
The SC also pulled up the Centre for its inability to frame the Cauvery draft water-sharing scheme within the May 3 deadline as set by the apex court. The CJI directed attorney general KK Venugopal to respond by Tuesday about steps the Centre has taken so far to frame the scheme. “You have a responsibility to frame the draft scheme?” the CJI said.
“We are in a difficult position… we are only asking for 10 days more,” Venugopal said, adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Cabinet colleagues are busy campaigning in Karnataka and hence the draft could not be placed before the Cabinet. “Have the case a day after the Karnataka elections… they are all travelling.
Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, appearing for Tamil Nadu, accused the Centre of a “brazen attitude” and “playing politics” to favour the BJP’s fortune in the state. “The Centre does not want to frame the scheme before the elections on May 12…they are taking us for a ride, this is the end of corporate federalism. What do we tell the people of Tamil Nadu. If you allow this to happen, there will be nothing left of the rule of law and cooperative federalism…we have still not been able to get water. Summer temperatures are rising… there is no drinking water…,” the senior lawyer said.
Declaring the Cauvery river as a “national asset” and that no single state can claim exclusive ownership of its water, the Supreme Court had on February 16 reduced its allocation of water to Tamil Nadu to 177.25 thousand million cubic feet (TMC), down from 192 TMC allocated by a tribunal in 2007.
Of the total of 740 tmcft of water, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and the Union Territory of Puducherry would be entitled to 404.25 tmcft, 284.75 tmcft, 30 tmcft and 7 tmcft, respectively, per annum. The new water-sharing scheme would be applicable for the next 15 years.