A 3 judge bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India on 18th May 2018 comprising of Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud adjudicated the case “State of Tamil Nadu v. P.K. Sinha and ANR.“.
The judgement today gives hope to a successful end to the long standing Cauvery Water Dispute over the sharing of waters between the southern states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
The Supreme Court had earlier directed the Central Government to frame a scheme under Section 6A of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956, for carrying out the rights of the States with regard to allocation or sharing of water within 6 weeks.
As there were divergent views among various States/ Union Territories on the issue, it was felt by the Union Govt. that it would lead to multiple litigations and delays as the scheme would further be challenged in the court of law.
So, the Union of India filed a petition to obtain further clarification on the issue. Petitions were filed in the same regard by Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and a private party. The court directed the Union Government to submit a draft scheme before 3rd May 2018 and listed the matter for hearing on the 3rd of May 2018 which was again listed for hearing 5 days later to enable Karnataka to obtain instructions.There was a further delay because of Karnataka elections and the changes by the Union Govt. over the draft scheme till 17th May 2018. On the said date, the attorney general K.K. Venugopal submitted the draft scheme.
THE DRAFT PLAN:
6 Major Elements Of the Draft Plan include:
A) Establishment of Cauvery Water Management Authority– A corporate body having perpetual succession with 1 chairman, 2 whole time members each from Water Resources and Agriculture Portfolios of the Union Govt. and 4 part time members who are Secretaries in charge of Water Resource Departments of State Governments of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry nominated by their respective Governments. It would also have a secretary nominated by the Union Government.
B) Administrative and Field Organization Costs- All expenses of the Authority (including salary and other expenses of the Chairman and independent Members) shall be borne by the State Governments, in the ratio of Kerala – 15% Karnataka – 40%, Tamil Nadu – 40%; and Union Territory of Pondicherry – 5%.
The expenses pertaining to Member representing a State, communicating data construction and maintenance of the storages and canal networks shall be borne by the State concerned.
C) Significance of Water Year– The Authority at the beginning of the water year, i.e. first June each year would determine the total residual storage in the specified reservoirs. The share of each State will be determined on the basis of the flows so assumed together with the available carry over storage in the reservoirs.
D) Control over State Reservoirs– The 8 important reservoirs in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu shall be operated in an integrated manner by the concerned State under the overall guidance of the Authority for each ten day period throughout the year to meet the seasonal water requirements of the various States. The quantities of the surplus water shall be conserved and spillage of water shall be reduced to the minimum.
E) Regulation Committee– In case of deficiency in the water availability during any month as reported by the Regulation Committee( that is entrusted with supervision of reservoir operation and with regulation of water release ), the Authority will consider reduction in the proportion to the quantities allocated to each State.
F) Financial Provision for Construction of Authority- The Union Government shall initially contribute a sum of Rs. 2 crores. The State of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Union Territory of Puducherry shall contribute Rupees two crores in the ratio of 15:40:40:5 respectively and later on make advance payments on a quarterly basis as demanded by the Authority keeping in view the Annual Budget of the Authority.
SUPREME COURT’S RULING:
The court observed:
“The Authority constituted under the scheme will be bound by the… Award as modified by this Court and while doing so, is expected to take into account all factors that may be relevant at the given point of time…before quantifying the water quantity for being released or allotted to the party States/U.T. for the relevant period.”
The Supreme Court, without introducing any changes into the scheme, hoped that the draft scheme will be implemented by the Union Government before the onset of the impending monsoon.
This note is written by Gunjeet Singh Bagga.