The Central government is keen on implementing the Feb 16 order of the Supreme Court, directing it to have a scheme in place within six weeks.
Because of difference of opinions among the basin States of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Karnataka and Kerala on the scope, powers and functions of the proposed board, the Centre thought it fit to seek clarification from the Apex court to avoid further litigation.
This is in the backdrop of the differences among the basin states that came to the fore at the March 9 meeting of Chief Secretaries and water resources secretaries called by the Union Water Resources Ministry after the Supreme Court on February 16 had asked the Centre to frame a scheme for enforcing the SC order within six weeks.
The differences pertained to whether the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) should be modeled after the Bhakra-Beas Board which owns and manages the dams to ensure compliance, or it should be like the Narmada board which only regulates and distributes the water with the control dams remaining with the respective States.
The Cauvery Waters Dispute Tribunal (CWDT) in its order laid out the idea of a scheme, along with its purpose, powers, functions and functioning committee. The clarification sought by the Centre is only to ensure efficient implementation of the apex court judgment.
Tamil Nadu demanded that there should be no changes to what the CWDT order said regarding the formation of the CMB and the Central Government should form the CMB and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee without any delay. Its response made no mention about control over dams. Puducherry also supported the CMB and said that all the powers related to the Board should vest in the Central Government.
Karnataka said the February 16 order did not suggest a management board and it in fact has (the SC order) modified the final award of the tribunal. It said the “scheme” to which the Supreme Court referred to, should be dispute-resolving in character and should function only when there are allegations against one or more states.
Karnataka also submitted that according to Section 6A Clause (7) of the Inter-State River Water Dispute Act, 1956, any scheme formed by the Central Government should go through Parliament. It further said the CMB would be against the federal structure and ultra vires of the Constitution.
Kerala said the Board should have to see if the correct quantum of water was being released, adding, it should have no other power. Besides, these two States also said concerned States should be consulted before the Centre notified any scheme.
The Central Water Commission chairman said that the scheme should make sure the right and appropriate quantum of water for each season/month and have a mechanism to resolve disputes especially in distress years. After analysing all these submissions, Centre filed a clarificatory petition as affected States with contradictory stands might again approach the court. The Centre also apprehended a law and order problem in view of the ensuing Karnataka Assembly polls.
The Centre, among other things, asked the Supreme Court to clarify whether it is open to it to frame a scheme at variance with the recommendations contained in the tribunal's order regarding CMB and its composition. In the light of all these, the Centre sought time from the court till May 16 to implement its Feb 16 order.
The Supreme Court heard the contempt petition of the State of Tamil Nadu and the clarification petition of the Central Government on April 9. The Apex court then said, though it was late, it understood the issues and problems and clarified the Centre's queries on the scheme and directed the Central Government to come with the 'Draft Scheme' on or before May 3, 2018, so that the Supreme court will deal with the States objecting to the Scheme. The Water Resource Ministry Secretary made it clear that after the court's clarification, it is easy for the centre to frame a 'Scheme' that is suitable for the Cauvery issue and it will be done.
(The author is a state BJP spokesperson)...