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Can't Be Asked To Set Up Cauvery Board, Centre Tells Supreme Court

The issue fell under the domain of the legislature, the government argued.

03/10/2016 8:05 PM IST | Updated 03/10/2016 8:33 PM IST
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Hindustan Times via Getty Images
(L-R) Siddaramaiah, Chief Minister of Karnataka, Union Minister for Water Resources Uma Bharti and Edappadi K. Palanisamy, PWD Minister of Tamil Nadu, Minister of State for Water Resources Sanjeev Kumar Balyan during a meeting on the issue of Cauvery, at Sharam Shakti Bhawan, on September 29, 2016 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Sonu Mehta /Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

New Delhi, Oct 3 (PTI) — Taking a call on the Cauvery water dispute for the first time, the Centre today told Supreme Court that it cannot be directed to set up the Cauvery Water Management Board (CWMB), but was setting up a technical panel to assess the ground realities to defuse the wrangle between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

As the apex court ordered the Karnataka government to apprise it by tomorrow afternoon whether it has released water to Tamil Nadu as per its directions of 30 September, the Centre urged it to review or recall the order asking it to set up the CWMB on the ground that the issue fell under the domain of the legislature.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who mentioned the Centre's application before a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra, brought to the notice of the bench that it should not have asked it to set up the CWMB as the main civil appeal on the issue was still pending and it was not a party before the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal which had sought the establishment of the CWMB.

"Since the central government was not a party to the proceedings before the Tribunal, it did not have opportunity to submit to the Tribunal that the Tribunal will not have any power of recommending to create a Board as suggested. Setting up of a Board is part of legislative exercise...

"It is submitted that constitution of a Board as suggested by the Tribunal and ordered by this Court on September 20 is not contemplated by the statute. By setting up of a Board of this nature, the Central Government is denuded of its power under the Act of 1956 to frame a scheme based on an award which goes through a legislative process by placing thereof before the Parliament and the final say is vested in the Parliament," the government said in its plea.

The petition contends that the Centre is conscious that the "sanctity" of the court orders must be upheld besides "dignity and majesty" of the judicial system.

"In order to make another attempt to defuse the matter and find an amicable solution, the central government proposes setting up of a High Power Technical Team.

"The composition of High Power panel would be GS Jha, Chairman/Member of Central Water Commission (CWC), (who would be the chairman of the said team), Syed Masood Hussain, member of CWC, RK Gupta Chief Engineer, CWC and such other experts as decided by Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources in consultation with the Chairman, CWC to proceed immediately to the site so that an inspection of the entire basin is done for assessing the ground realities and prepare a report forthwith for being placed before this court," it said.

On September 30, SC had directed Karnataka to discharge 6,000 cusecs water from October 1-6, warning it that no one would know when the "wrath of the law" would fall on it.

The apex court had also directed the Centre to establish the CWMB, saying once it was constituted, its team would visit the sites to take a prima facie view of the ground reality and submit a report.

On October 1, Karnataka had moved a review petition in the apex court against its three orders on Cauvery water release to Tamil Nadu and direction to the Centre to create the CWMB.

In its review petition, Karnataka said "grave miscarriage of justice" has been caused to it pursuant to the three apex court orders of September 20, 27 and 30, by which it was directed to release 6000 cusecs of water till October 6 and the Centre was to constitute the Board by October 4.

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