Cauvery: Centre seeks time, Tamil Nadu for contempt action

New Delhi: In a bid to buy time, the Central government on Saturday moved the Supreme Court filing a clarification petition and asking for three months for implementing its judgment in view of the May assembly elections in Karnataka while the Tamil Nadu government sought contempt proceedings against the Centre for its failure to constitute Cauvery Management Board (CMB) and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) as directed by the top court.

The top court by its February 16 judgment had directed the Centre to constitute within six weeks the Cauvery Management Board and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee for the implementation of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal Award for which the deadline expired on Friday.

The Centre felt that constitution of a scheme under Section 6(A) of the Inter-state River Waters Disputes Act and notification during the assembly election process would lead to massive public outrage, vitiate election process and cause serious law and order problems.

But Tamil Nadu said the Central government was deliberately delaying the implementation of the court order and contempt proceedings should be initiated against it.

“Initiate contempt proceedings against respondents (the central government) for willful disobedience in carrying out clear mandate set out in para 403 of the judgment passed by the honourable court dated 16-02-2018,” the Tamil Nadu contempt plea said.

The central government in its affidavit filed a day after the six-week deadline ended on Friday said due to divergent views expressed by four governments, including Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, on the “framing of the scehme”, it is felt that if any scheme was framed by the Central government by itself the states may again approach the court.

Citing the stands of Kerala and Karnataka governments that any scheme proposed under the inter-state water disputes act should first be shared with them before its notification, the Centre said: “To avoid further litigation by the states in the constitution and functions of the board, it is felt that clarification from the honourable Supreme Court is considered necessary.”

Referring to the announcement of polls by the Election Commission, it said: “Cauvery is a very emotive issue in Karnataka and in the past, the issue had led to serious law and order situation, leading to avoidable loss of human lives and property.”

It also wanted to know whether the Central government had the flexibility to modify the composition of the board to a mixture of administrative and technical body and not purely a technical body for effective conduct of the business of the board and considering overall sensitivity of the issues involved.

Another clarification it wanted was whether the board framed under 6(A) of the act can have functions different from the ones recommended for Cauvery Management Board by the tribunal.

The Centre said in compliance of the February 6 order of the court and in spirit of true federalism, it convened a meeting of the Chief Secretaries of the four states and other officials and initiated consultations for arriving at a consensus.

It said divergent views were expressed by the states. Tamil Nadu indicated that the scheme as mentioned by the Supreme Court has been defined in Section 6 which is to implement the final order of the tribunal.