In a bid to buy time, the Central government on Saturday moved the Supreme Court filing a clarification petition and asking for three months for implementing its judgment in view of the May assembly elections in Karnataka while the Tamil Nadu government sought contempt proceedings against the Centre for its failure to constitute Cauvery Management Board (CMB) and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) as directed by the top court.
The top court by its February 16 judgment had directed the Centre to constitute within six weeks the Cauvery Management Board and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee for the implementation of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal Award for which the deadline expired on Friday.
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.
But Tamil Nadu said the Central government was deliberately delaying the implementation of the court order and contempt proceedings should be initiated against it.
"Initiate contempt proceedings against respondents (the central government) for willful disobedience in carrying out clear mandate set out in para 403 of the judgment passed by the honourable court dated 16-02-2018," the Tamil Nadu contempt plea said.
The central government in its affidavit filed a day after the six-week deadline ended on Friday said due to divergent views expressed by four governments, including Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, on the "framing of the scehme", 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, the Centre said: "To avoid further litigation by the states in the constitution and functions of the board, it is felt that clarification from the honourable Supreme Court is considered necessary."
Referring to the announcement of polls by the Election Commission, it 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."
It also wanted to know whether the Central government had the flexibility to modify the composition of the board to a mixture of administrative and technical body and not purely a technical body for effective 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. 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.
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.
Karnataka 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 to submit indent does not and should not arise for consideration.
It also contended that the Supreme Court has not endorsed or approved the board in its judgment.
The top court by its February 16 verdict had reduced the Tamil Nadu's share of Cauvery water from 177.25 thousand million cubic feet (TMC), which was less than 192 TMC allocated by a tribunal in 2007. On the other hand, Karnataka's share of water was increased by 14.75 TMC.
"We direct that a scheme shall be framed by the Central Government within a span of six weeks from today so that the authorities under the scheme can see to it that the present decision which has modified the award passed by the Tribunal is smoothly made functional and the rights of the states as determined by us are appositely carried out," the top court said in its February 16 judgement, adding there would no extension of time given for the purpose.
Seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against the Centre for its "willful disobedience" in implementing the judgment, Tamil Nadu sought direction to the central government to constitute the board and the committee with all powers to enforce the Tribunal award and the judgment of the court as well.
Tamil Nadu in its contempt plea contended that the Central Government was "bound to give effect to the judgment by framing a scheme so that the authorities under the Scheme are put in place within six weeks and the decision of the Tribunal as modified by this Hon'ble Court is implemented."
The Central Government was "duty bound to take steps to facilitating implementation of the judgment by itself deciding and taking necessary action to constitute the machinery" as per the mandate of the top court, it said.
"It has not taken any concrete steps in this regard", the contempt plea said.
"Belatedly" on March 9 after a period of three weeks, the Central Government "merely" convened a meeting of the Chief Secretaries of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry.
The convening of "such a meeting does not in any way make any substantial progress in the matter of constitution of Cauvery Management Board and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee", the state told the court.
Asserting that timely releases of water was clear from the February 16 judgment, Tamil Nadu said any delay "in constituting Cauvery Management Board and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee is to the prejudice to the farmers of state of Tamil Nadu"