The Supreme Court today rejected Karnataka’s plea that the finalisation of the draft Cauvery management scheme should be put on hold as the process of formation of a new government in the state is underway. The apex court also asked the Centre to modify a provision in the draft scheme that authorises the union government to issue directions “from time to time” on Cauvery water distribution between four southern riparian states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry. A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra asked Attorney General K K Venugopal to modify the scheme and submit it for approval tomorrow.
The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, did not accept the vehement submission of senior advocate Shyam Divan, representing Karnataka, that finalisation of the draft Cauvery scheme be put on hold till the first week of July as the process of government formation was on in the state. “All the states concerned are making submissions to the draft scheme. I am requesting for adjournment till the first week of July as I do not have the assistance and instruction from the council of ministers of Karnataka,” Divan said. “It was the Centre which has to set up the draft scheme,” the court said while rejecting the plea.
The bench fixed the matter for tomorrow to consider the modified draft scheme, which will ensure compliance of the February 16 apex court judgment relating to Cauvery water distribution among four states. The apex court had earlier rapped the Centre over the delay in filing of the draft Cauvery management scheme. It had on May 8 summoned the Secretary of Union Water Resources Ministry to bring along with him the draft. The apex court had in its February verdict asked the Centre to frame the Cauvery management scheme, which also included creating the Cauvery Managament Board, within six weeks for release of water from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.
Earlier, the court was irked when the Centre had sought time on the ground that the Union Cabinet was not able to meet to approve the draft scheme as the leaders, including the Prime Minister, were busy in the campaign for assembly polls in Karnataka, which were held on May 12. The bench had said the scheme, once finalised, would deal with the issue of water share of the four states in different circumstances like normal and deficient water years in the Cauvery river basin. The apex court had on February 16 asked the Centre to formulate the scheme to ensure compliance of its judgement on the decades-old Cauvery dispute.
It had modified the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) award of 2007 and made it clear that it will not be extending time for this on any ground. The top court had then raised the 270 tmcft share of Cauvery water for Karnataka by 14.75 tmcft and reduced Tamil Nadu’s share, while compensating it by allowing extraction of 10 tmcft groundwater from the river basin, saying the issue of drinking water has to be placed on a “higher pedestal”.