New Delhi: In a bid to buy time, the Central government on Saturday moved the Supreme Court asking for a clarification whether a Cauvery Management Board should be constituted under its verdict of the last month and sought extension of three months for implementing the judgment in view of the May assembly elections in Karnataka.
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.
In an affidavit filed a day after the six-week deadline for implementing the verdict ended on Friday, the Centre said due to diversion views expressed by four governments, including Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, on the “framing of the scheme”, 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.
“To avoid further litigation by the states in the constitution and functions of the board, it is felt clarification from the honourable Supreme Court are considered necessary.”
Referring to the announcement of polls by the Election Commission, the Centre 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.”
The petition sought clarification from the court whether it is open to the Central government to frame the scheme under 6(A) at variance with the recommendations contained in the report of the Cauvery water dispute tribunal regarding Cauvery Management Board.
It also wanted to know whether the board as recommended by the tribunal is to be constituted, would the Central government have the flexibility to modify the composition of the board to a mixture of administrative and technical body and not purely a technical body for effect 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. While 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 under the court,
The view of Tamil Nadu was that the Central government was mandated to put in place an authority or the body for implementation of the final decision by constituting the board and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee.
Puducherry and Kerala gave similar views but Karnataka was of the opinion that the Supreme Court has left the contents of the scheme to the discretion of the Central government.
It said the contention of Tamil Nadu that the board as formulated by the tribunal should be a part of the Scheme is wholly contrary to the mandate of the judgment and law.
Karnataka also contended that the Scheme contemplated in the Supreme Court judgment is a dispute resolution body as distinct from the management or regulation recommended by the tribunal. Therefore the question of asking Karnataka submits indent does not and should not arise for consideration.
The state said the management and regulation of water of a state namely equitable share of a state determined by the adjudication is the sole prerogative of the state by reference to the entry 17 of the State list to the seventh schedule of the Constitution and therefore a scheme in the form of the board is clearly ultra vires of the Constitution.
Fifthly, Karnataka contended that the Supreme Court has not endorsed or approved the board in its judgment.