Ticking off the Centre for "flouting the law" for the last five years, the Supreme Court on Monday set a February 20 deadline to notify Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal award, saying it has no discretion or choice but to do so.
Mincing no words in its observations against the Centre for sitting on the award, the apex court said that the government is bound by the Act under which the Tribunal was set up in 1990 and directed it to notify the award as expeditiously as possible, but not later than February 20.
"You flouted the law of the Act for the last five years. You have no option but to notify the final award. That is the mandate given by Parliament. No option has been given to you once the final award is made by the tribunal. You have no choice and discretion," a bench headed by Justice R M Lodha said.
Earlier, the government had assured the court that the award would be notified by January 31 but it sought more time to notify it.
The bench, however, refused the plea of Additional Solicitor General Haren Rawal who urged the court not to pass any order saying that government would soon notify the award.
"We direct the Central government to publish final award dated February 5, 2007 as earlier as possible but not later than February 20," the bench said.
Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, constituted on 2 June 1990, had passed the final award on February 5, 2007 but the award was not put in operation as the Centre did not notify it in official gazette.
The Tribunal, comprising chairman Justice N P Singh and members N S Rao and Sudhir Narain, in a unanimous award had determined the total availability of water in the Cauvery basin at 740 TMC feet at the Lower Coleroon Anicut site.
The proceedings of the Tribunal went on for more than 16 years.
In what was then described as a balancing act, the Tribunal gave Tamil Nadu 419 tmc of water (as against the demand of 562 tmc); Karnataka 270 tmc (as against its demand of 465 tmc); Kerala 30 tmc and Puducherry 7 tmc. For environmental protection, it had reserved 10 tmc.
The Tribunal's award will come into effect within 90 days of its notification by the Centre. As per law, the award comes into effect after being notified by the Centre through its publication in a gazette.
Once a gazette notification is issued, the Cauvery River Authority (CRA) chaired by the Prime Minister and the CMC will cease to exist.