Two days after the deadline to set up the Cauvery Management Board expired, the Tamil Nadu government on Saturday filed a contempt of court petition against the Union Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha and Water Resources Secy UP Singh for not setting up the Cauvery Management Board, as directed by the Supreme Court.
In its prayer to the Supreme Court, the Tamil Nadu government seeks to, “initiate contempt of court proceedings against Respondents for wilful disobedience in carrying out the clear mandate set out in para 403 of the Judgement passed by this Hon’ble Court dated 16.02.2018 in C.A. No 2453 of 2007 and connected Appeals.”
Further, the Tamil Nadu government seeks the apex court to direct the respondent to purge the contempt by “framing a scheme in accordance with the judgement dated 16.02.2018” by “providing for Cauvery Management Board and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee vested with all powers to give effect to the decision of the Tribunal as well as the judgement of this Hon’ble Court”.
The move comes after much pressure from several leaders and farmers in the state who had slammed the state government for its failure to secure the Cauvery Management Board for the farmers in the delta region of Tamil Nadu.
At a March 9 meeting of the Chief Secretaries of the Cauvery Basin states, Union Water Resources secretary UP Singh had said of the CMB, “It is a matter of interpretation. The tribunal has recommended (a board). The SC doesn’t use the word Cauvery Management Board. It says scheme.”
During the meeting Singh also suggested alternative models such as the Bhakra-Beas Management Board and Narmada Control Authority for the management of Cauvery’s water.
Centre seeks clarification
Earlier on Saturday, the Centre sought clarification from the Supreme Court regarding its role in the formation of the Cauvery Management Board along with a three-month extension.
The Centre had asked clarification on whether it was allowed to frame the scheme at variance with the recommendation contained in the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal’s report.
On the constitution of the Board itself, the Centre sought to know if it could be a mixture of administrative and technical members as opposed to the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal that recommended a ‘purely technical’ body.
Seeking a three month extension, the Centre explains that “Cauvery is a very emotive issue in Karnataka and in the past the issue has led to serious law and order situations leading to avoidable loss of human lives and property. If the Central Government were to constitute a scheme under 6A of ISRWD, Act 1956 and notify it during the currency of the State Vidhan Sabha election process, the Central Government fears that it would lead to massive public outrage, vitiate election election process and cause serious law and order problems.”
The Centre’s petition comes even after the Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat had given the Union Government the go-ahead to set up the Cauvery Management Board, observing the court’s directives would not amount to a violation of the model code of conduct.
The February 16 Supreme Court judgement had reduced TN’s share of water, while directing the Centre to “frame a scheme” so as to implement its orders.
The Supreme Court in its February 16 verdict states:
“..we direct that a scheme shall be framed by the Central Government within a span of six weeks from today so that the authorities under the scheme can see to it that the present decision which has modified the award passed by the Tribunal is smoothly made functional and the rights of the States as determined by us are appositely carried out. When we say so, we also categorically convey that the need based monthly release has to be respected. It is hereby made clear that no extension shall be granted for framing of the scheme on any ground.”