New Delhi: The central government was reprimanded by the Supreme Court today for ignoring its orders on setting up a regulatory body that would monitor the release of Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu by Karnataka. The judges of the top court suggested that the centre was acting in guile. "The centre knows what the scheme means," the judges said, asking the government to inform by May 3 how it planned to implement the water sharing formula the court had laid down in February.
- Centre was asked to share plans by May 3 on water distribution
- Centre sought for more time to work out the modalities of water-sharing
- Karnataka has often cited below-average monsoon to reduce water share
The top court also ordered the governments of Tamil Nadu and election-bound Karnataka to ensure peace in both states. "We struggled hard to render Cauvery judgement to resolve the long pending dispute. So people of both states should understand and nothing should be done to hamper the implementation of the judgement," Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said.
The distribution of water between the neighbouring southern states has been a contentious issue for decades and has turned into a politically volatile one, as Karnataka votes to pick its next government on May 12. Citing the election, the centre had asked for more time to work out the modalities of water-sharing. It also sought clarification on the structure of the regulatory body the court had ordered it to form by March 29, to supervise the release of the water.
"There is no difficulty in setting up the Cauvery Management Board. The only difficulty is whether it should be headed by an administrative or technical member," the government's seniormost law officer told the top court.
"If you had any doubts on our judgement you should have come to us," Justice Misra told the government.
The Centre's delay in setting up the Cauvery Water Management Board upset leaders of Tamil Nadu. Actor-politicians Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan said Karnataka -- which has been given more water at the state's expense by the Supreme Court -- will benefit from it, because in an election season, all parties will seek to appease it. The state filed a contempt of court petition against the Centre, citing its failure to form the Cauvery Board by March 29.
Tamil leaders say the Cauvery Water Management Board to be constituted urgently so the recurring negotiations with Karnataka over water sharing is done away with. Karnataka has often cited drought or below-average monsoon to reduce the share of water to its neighbour. The Supreme Court order is aimed at ending that flexibility.
The centre had asked the Supreme Court for three more months to set up the board, claiming that doing so now could provoke violence and anger as well as "vitiate the election process".
A range of opposition leaders in Tamil Nadu have agreed to collectively tour the state to protest against the centre for failing to move on the Cauvery water sharing. The march started on April 2.