New Delhi: Telling the Centre that it was in “sheer contempt”, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Secretary, Water Resources Ministry, to be personally present in the court on May 14 along with the scheme for the implementation of the Cauvery Tribunal Award.
The bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y.Chandrachud directed the presence of the top Water Resources official as Attorney General K.K.Venugopal sought six days’ time for the Karnataka election to be over before the government takes a decision.
“You (Centre) are in sheer contempt of the court,” the CJI told Venugopal.
The AG said the draft scheme for the implementation of the Cauvery award was before the Cabinet and the meeting has not taken place as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other ministers were busy campaignings in Karnataka, where assembly elections are slated to be held on May 12.
He sought six days’ time for filing the scheme but senior counsel Shekhar Naphade, appearing for Tamil Nadu, asked why it cannot be filed on Thursday and Friday.
As Venugopal said the officers who instruct (on the matter) are not working on Saturdays and Sundays, Naphade took a jibe, saying: “We are servants for 24 hours, 365 days”, an obvious reference to the statement by a top functionary of the government.
When the AG asked “Who said that”, Naphade replied: “You want me to quote?” and added, the top functionary said it last week.
The AG justified the Centre seeking more time saying that it was a sensitive matter having a bearing on the law and order situation.
Naphade said that they will not implement the order of the court on the grounds of law and order.
On another occasion, when the AG said that the release of water was not within the authority of the Cauvery Management Board, Naphade was quick to point out that the people of Tamil Nadu will not get water, no matter what happens.
Noting that Central government has not framed for scheme for implementing its February 16 judgment, the top court, in the last hearing on May 3, had observed that “… Karnataka will release water as per Tribunal award. You will release 4 TMC of water. Please see how much water can be released by end of May.”
Karnataka has told the top court that it has already released the Cauvery water that Tamil Nadu was entitled to under the “distress formula” due to deficient rainfall and needed remaining water for drinking purposes in Bengaluru and the areas falling under its part of the Cauvery basin.
However, Tamil Nadu in its response has contended that Karnataka had enough water to release 4TMC of water to cover the shortfall of 1.4 TMC for April and the allocation of 2.4 TMC for May this year
Tamil Nadu has told the apex court that “Karnataka has 19.834 TMC ft. of water as on May 4 in its four reservoirs” and the storage in “Mettur Dam is 9.502 TMC ft. (the utilizable storage being only 4.502 TMC ft)”.
Thus, Karnataka “is in a better position and can easily spare the 4 TMC ft” even after meeting the requirement of drinking water supply for May, that is 1.6 TMC ft, Tamil Nadu submitted.
The top court by its February 16 judgment had asked the Centre to frame a scheme for the implementation of the tribunal award and its judgment. It had given the Centre six weeks time, that came to end on March 30, for this purpose.
Tamil Nadu had on March 31 moved the top court seeking contempt action against the Centre for “willful disobedience” in carrying out the mandate of the apex court on constituting the Cauvery Management Board for which the six-week deadline expired on Friday.