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Cauvery Issue: Tamil Nadu files contempt petition against Centre in Supreme Court

On 16 February, the top court had directed the Centre to constitute within six weeks the CMB and CWRC.

SNS | New Delhi |


The Tamil Nadu government on Saturday filed a contempt petition against the Centre over the non-formation of the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) within the deadline set by the Supreme Court.

Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami had on Friday night said that his government was holding discussions with legal experts over the nature of the petition.

Accusing the Centre of deliberately delaying the implementation of the court order, the AIADMK government initiated contempt proceedings for “wilful disobedience”.

“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 contempt plea filed by Tamil Nadu read.

According to reports, the petition has been filed against Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha and Union Water Resources Secretary UP Singh.

The state government also asked the court to direct the officials to frame a scheme for CMB and Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) as per the directions in the judgment of the apex court.

Tamil Nadu said that a meeting of the Union Water Resources Secretary with Chief Secretaries of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry held on 9 March made no “substantial progress in the matter of the constitution of the CMB”.

But the Centre, too, had moved the apex court on Friday to seek a clarification and asking for three months for implementing its judgment in view of the May assembly elections in Karnataka. The Centre claimed that any move in the direction of the formation of CMB might lead to public outrage in Karnataka and create a law and order situation during the election process.

On 16 February, the top court had directed the Centre to constitute within six weeks the CMB and CWRC for the implementation of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal Award.

Friday was a politically contentious day for all parties in Tamil Nadu.

AIADMK coordinator and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam said the members of his party will go on a day’s hunger strike on 3 April at all district headquarters to protest the Central government’s failure to set up the CMB.

Tamil Nadu Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar told reporters in Chennai that the state government was “friendly” with the Modi government only to get various developmental projects approved and will fight for its rights.

AIADMK’s S Muthukaruppan resigned from the membership of the Rajya Sabha protesting the Centre’s negligence alleging that the Centre was playing with the lives of the farmers.

PMK activists led by party founder S Ramadoss and former Union minister Anbumani Ramadoss hoisted black flags on their houses.

But main opposition DMK, led by MK Stalin, was at the forefront of the accusations against the state government over failure in making the Centre constitute the Board.

The DMK brushed aside the AIADMK’s protests against the Centre’s inaction on the CMB. Party’s principal secretary S Duraimurugan had reportedly said that instead of threatening to commit suicide, AIADMK leaders, especially CM Palaniswamy and deputy CM O Panneerselvam, should have gheraoed the residence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Duraimurugan was referring to the suicide threat issued by AIADMK leader A Navaneethakrishnan.

Stalin had also held a meeting with party leaders in which ideas on the kind of protests to be held across Tamil Nadu were discussed.

On Thursday, Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) chief Kamal Haasan had said that Palaniswami had the power to make the Centre constitute the board to overlook the contentious issue of Cauvery water sharing between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. He had also said that he agreed with the “perception” of political parties in the state that the delay is Centre’s tactics ahead of Karnataka elections.

On the same day, Rajinikanth, too, had tweeted that the CMB is the only solution to the Cauvery water issue.

“On the Cauvery issue… setting up of CMB will be the only acceptable just solution for us. I sincerely hope justice will prevail,” the actor wrote on Twitter.

The Judgment

In its judgment on 16 February, the Supreme Court reduced Tamil Nadu’s share of Cauvery water and increased Karnataka’s share.

The apex court directed the Karnataka government to release 177.25 tmcft of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu from its inter-state Biligundlu dam.

The Supreme Court 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”.

The apex court had given the Centre six weeks to form the Board. The CMB, once formed, is expected to take control of the dams across river Cauvery through which it will distribute waters to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry according to the formula of the Cauvery tribunal.

Tamil Nadu has been demanding creation of the board so that it can be granted the power to open up reservoirs instead of the Karnataka government.