Centre fails to submit draft scheme on Cauvery in SC

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Centre fails to submit draft scheme on Cauvery in SC
Centre fails to submit draft scheme on Cauvery in SC

New Delhi : The Centre yet again failed to submit a draft Scheme on the Cauvery river water dispute before the Supreme Court on the ground that the Prime Minister and other ministers were campaigning in Karnataka, which Tamil Nadu flayed as "brazen partisanship".

Seeking 10 more days to finalize the scheme, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal told Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud: "A draft scheme has been placed before the Cabinet. Because of Karnataka elections, the Prime Minister and all other Ministers are in Karnataka. Before that the Prime Minister was abroad (in China)."

The Centre's submission was countered strongly by senior counsel Shekhar Naphade, appearing for Tamil Nadu, who said: "Sorry to say, the Central government is politicizing the issue. They are worried about their electoral fate in Karnataka. Election in Karnataka is on May 12 and somehow they don't want to do it till then. We have enough of it. It is brazen partisanship of the Union of India. It is the end of co-operative federalism."

The apex court in its February 16 judgement had directed the Centre to frame a Scheme within six months in accordance with the recommendation by the Cauvery River Water Tribunal for constitution of the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) and Cauvery Regulatory Authority (CRA), which Karnataka opposes strongly.

On the expiry of the six-week deadline, the Centre sought extension of time till the completion of the electoral process in Karnataka for submission of the Scheme. Tamil Nadu filed a contempt petition against the Centre for failure to act within the deadline.

The court on Thursday sought response from the Centre on the steps taken by it since the pronouncing of the judgement for putting in place a scheme for implementing its order on the sharing of Cauvery water among Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.

In the course of the hearing, the court asked Karnataka to release 4 TMC of water by Monday, since, 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.

Addressing the concern of Tamil Nadu, the bench said, "We have given time (for framing the scheme). If you (the Centre) have not been able to put in place (the scheme), if that does not happen, 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."

The court said that Attorney General "shall obtain instructions as to what steps have been taken to frame the scheme, and the same shall be put forth by way of an affidavit by the next date of hearing" (on May 8).

Telling the court that the onus for framing the scheme was on the Centre and States had no role to play, Naphade lamented that Tamil Nadu was being given "step-motherly treatment" by the Centre.

He told the court that they needed water for drinking purposes and were faced with a serious situation.

"Not only summer temperature was increasing, other temperatures are also increasing. What will we tell the people of Tamil Nadu," he said, describing the Centre's stand as a "dilly-dallying" .

"They will have every excuse not to have a scheme", Naphade told the court.

The court directed the next hearing of the matter on Tuesday.