New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its verdict on the finalisation of the Centre’s 'scheme' on setting up of the Cauvery Management Board/Authority for allocation and distribution of water among the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Union Territory of Puducherry.
On Wednesday, the Centre informed the court that it was agreeable for the name Cauvery Management Board to implement the February 16 judgment. The Court asked the Attorney General to make necessary changes in the scheme and to submit the revised final scheme.
However, during the resumed hearing on Thursday, A G K K Venugopal submitted before a three-judge bench, comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, that instead of Cauvery Water Management Board, the Centre has decided to name it as Cauvery Water Management Authority.
He said that there is no change in the composition or powers and in fact, an authority will have more powers than a board. The headquarters will be in Delhi and the authority would exercise full control. It can also seek the help of the Centre if needed.
The CJI told the counsel that it would pass orders in respect of the contempt plea of Tamil Nadu as well as on the 'scheme' either on Friday or on May 22/23. The CJI made it clear that the order would be strictly in terms of the February 16 judgment.
Senior counsel Shekar Naphade, along with senior counsel Rakesh Dwivedi and advocate G Umapathy, submitted that their worry was that a change of name should not dilute the powers of the authority. Naphade said that somehow from the beginning, the Centre was not in favour of a board.
Senior counsel Nambiar, appearing for Puducherry, suggested that unless the authority is vested with full control over the dams, mere supervision on water release would not help the riparian states.
Senior counsel Shyam Divan and counsel Mohan Katarki, for Karnataka, objected to a clause mandating the states to submit to the authority 'indents' every month specifying the storage position in the reservoirs and the requirements of water for release for the use of Karnataka.
Katarki said the submission of 'indents' could be confined only to 'distress years' and not every year. This was strongly opposed by Naphade, who said, for Karnataka, every year is a distress year and they would not release water to Tamil Nadu at all if this suggestion was accepted.
Divan said that vesting control of the reservoirs to the authority was not in accordance with the judgment and would amount to taking away the powers of the state to regulate the use of water within the state. Senior counsel Jaideep Gupta, for Kerala, endorsed Divan’s arguments and said such a power was unconstitutional.
The AG clarified that since Cauvery Water basin is a deficit basin, unless the water requirement was assessed in advance, the release of water cannot be regulated. Such a clause has been incorporated only for this purpose. Naphade strongly opposed Divan’s submissions and said that this was a clear attempt to subvert the scheme.
The final scheme submitted by the Centre, which envisages a 10-member authority, including the secretary, has been empowered to monitor the entire spectrum of monthly availability of storages and rainfall pattern vis-a-vis the schedule of monthly flows to be delivered at Billigundulu/inter-state contact point for a period of 15 years and to effect the necessary adjustments in the monthly schedule.
The authority will have the power to monitor the storage of water in the eight reservoirs in the Cauvery basin and the apportionment, regulation and control of the Cauvery waters. It will also have the power to supervise reservoirs, and with the regulation of water releases from the basin with the assistance of the Water Regulation Committee. The headquarters of the committee will be in Bengaluru. The authority will also regulate the release of water by Karnataka at the inter-state contract point at Billigundulu and discharge station located on the common border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.