NEW DELHI: The Centre on Thursday tried to buy more time from the Supreme Court to submit a draft scheme for implementing its directive on sharing the Cauvery, saying it’s ready but required Cabinet approval. Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other ministers are busy campaigning for the May 12 Karnataka Assembly elections, the Cabinet can meet after the polls are over, Attorney General K K Venugopal told a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
“A draft of the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) has been placed before the Cabinet. Because of Karnataka elections, the PM and other ministers are in Karnataka. Before that the PM was abroad (in China),” the A-G said. This is the first time the Centre has described the scheme as CMB, which was the principle demand of Tamil Nadu.
Thursday marked the end of the second deadline set by the bench on April 9 for submitting the draft scheme. The first one ended on March 29 and both have remained unmet.
Venugopal also flagged a recent communication from Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah saying ministers for water resources of all four states - Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry - be made members of the CMB. The composition of the board is another issue that needs to be resolved, he said.
Objecting to the extension plea, senior counsel Shekhar Naphade, appearing for Tamil Nadu, called it the end of co-operative federalism. “We have had enough of this, it is brazen partisanship of the Union of India.. What do we tell the people of Tamil Nadu as no scheme is framed even two months after the SC judgment? There is no drinking water,” Naphade said.
The bench directed Karnataka’s counsel to get instructions on how much of the 4 TMC of water for April and May it can release by this month-end. Demanding that it show bona fide by releasing water, the bench warned of consequences if they don’t, adding it could take suo motu cognisance of contempt and summon Karnataka’s Chief Secretary.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan for Karnataka said the state has already released water in excess to Tamil Nadu. But Tamil Nadu rebutted saying it had received only 1.1 TMC for April.
The bench said even if the Centre has not framed the scheme, Karnataka, under the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal award, was obliged to make monthly releases to Tamil Nadu. The next hearing will happen on May 8.
Later Karnataka minister MB Patil said, “we cannot obey Supreme Court’s order as we don’t have water.”