Further as the matter was pending adjudication in the apex court, the Centre wanted to await the judgment.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned the Centre as to why it did not take steps to frame a scheme for formation of the Cauvery Management Board for implementation of the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal.
A three-judge bench is hearing appeals against the Cauvery Disputes Tribunal’s final award of February 2007 on allocation of water for Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala and Union Terri-tory of Puducherry.
Even as solicitor general Ranjit Kumar for the Centre commenced his arguments, the CJI told the solicitor general, “Having notified the final award in the Gazette in May 2013, why you (Centre) did not frame a scheme for implementation of the award.
“It is your obligation to frame a scheme and you cannot shirk your responsibility saying the relevant provision only says ‘may frame a scheme’.”
The solicitor general submitted that the Centre did not frame a scheme as it was waiting for clarifications from the tribunal on various issues.
Further as the matter was pending adjudication in the apex court, the Centre wanted to await the judgment. Moreover as per the interim orders of the apex court, Cauvery River Authority and Supervisory Committee had been formed and they are still in existence.
The CJI, however, told the SG “once the award is notified, there cannot be a vacuum, it has to be effectively implemented for which a proper mechanism is necessary”. The SG assured the court that the mechanism would be put in place within six weeks as per the directions contained in the final judgment.
Ranjit Kumar informed the court that framing a scheme was a legislative function. Once the scheme was framed, it has to be placed before Parliament for its approval, annulment or modification so that it would become a legal entity.
The SG submitted that the tribunal had allocated weekly/monthly release of water by Karnataka to Tamil Nadu at Biligundlu and there was no clarity on sharing of water during distress situations.
Senior counsel Fali Nariman for Karnataka intervened and said the final award provided for distress sharing formula but there was no apportionment of water when there was surplus water in a year. He also opposed monthly release of water to Tamil Nadu and maintained that the deficit had to be determined only at the end of the crop season or at the end of the water year.
Senior counsel Shekar Naphade for Tamil Nadu made it clear that there could not be any tinkering with the tribunal’s award on monthly release of water as it was necessary both for Kuruvai and samba crops.
The CJI told Mr. Nariman “we agree with Mr. Naphade that the monthly release should be maintained. Otherwise at the end of the season, water will go waste into the sea as Tamil Nadu may not require water at that time.” In a lighter vein the CJI said “otherwise it will be like having breakfast, lunch and dinner together. We don’t want such a situation to happen”
Mr. Nariman said “we have to leave it to the Authority (to be formed for implementation) to deal with fact situation now and then as the release depends on availability of water.” Mr. Nariman suggested that the Authority or the Board should be headed by a retired apex court judge with officials from each State. The composition of the Authority only with officials may not serve the purpose. He also wanted the court to allow Karnataka to utilise the allocated water in whatever manner it wanted and not to restrict the use as determined by the Tribunal.
Mr. Naphade, however, opposed this suggestion and said the allocation of water based on the purpose for which it should be used could not be altered. He submitted that the court itself should frame a scheme and appoint the Authority for implementation of the directions and the power should not be vested with the Central government.
Counsel said Tamil Nadu had a bitter and unpleasant experience with Karnataka for over 25 years as it had failed to implement the award. The State had always to rush to this court for release of water with a begging bowl and even this year the deficit continued till now. Arguments will conclude tomorrow.