In a stern warning, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Karnataka government to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu or face “serious consequences”. The apex court also asked the Centre to apprise it about the steps taken for setting up of the Cauvery Management Board by May 8.
However, attorney general KK Venugopal sought more time from the court citing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unavailability due to Karnataka Assembly elections.
“The Prime Minister and ministers were busy in Karnataka polls and can't approve the scheme for releasing water to Tamil Nadu, as directed," the attorney general told a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
Earlier in April, the apex court had asked the Modi government to frame and file a draft Cauvery management scheme by May 3.
Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, appearing for Tamil Nadu, took strong exception at the submission saying, “This is the end of co-operative federalism and the rule of law in the country. This is the partisan attitude of the union of India to favour Karnataka.”
The bench also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud initially asked the Karnataka government to release four TMC of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu by May 8, but later directed the state to apprise it “as to how much water can be released”.
It said once the Centre places the draft scheme, which would also include Cauvery Water Management Board and Monitoring Authority, it would consider the grievances of all the stakeholder states.
The top court had on February 16 raised the 270 tmcft share of Cauvery water for Karnataka by 14.75 tmcft and reduced Tamil Nadu’s share, while compensating it by allowing extraction of 10 tmcft groundwater from the river basin, saying the issue of drinking water has to be placed on a “higher pedestal”.
With the apex court’s verdict, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Union Territory of Puducherry would be annually entitled to 404.25 tmcft, 284.75 tmcft, 30 tmcft and 7 tmcft of Cauvery water respectively out of the total of 740 tmcft.
(With input from agencies)