The Supreme Court of India on May 18, 2018 approved the Centre's draft Cauvery Management Scheme for smooth distribution of Cauvery river water among the southern states.
The ruling was passed by a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud. The bench rejected the suggestions of Karnataka and Kerala governments over the scheme, terming them as devoid of merits.
The court also dismissed Tamil Nadu's plea seeking initiation of contempt against the Centre for non-finalisation of Cauvery scheme.
The scheme, once finalised, would deal with the issue of water share between Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry in different circumstances like normal and deficient water years in the Cauvery river basin.
• The observation was made after the Centre submitted the draft Cauvery management scheme in the court for its approval on May 14.
• The scheme has basically been framed for the smooth implementation of the apex court's February 16 judgment for sharing of Cauvery River's water between the four southern states.
• The bench had said that it will not go into the correctness of the draft Cauvery scheme framed by the government but will examine only one issue - whether the scheme conforms to its judgment of February 16.
• The bench stated that the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal's award, which was modified by the apex court, has to be taken to the logical conclusion by the Cauvery Management Scheme.
• Earlier, the bench had rejected the provision empowering the Centre to issue the directions, saying that it was not in line with the court’s February 16 judgement.
Supreme Court’s February 16 verdict
• The Supreme Court of India on February 16, 2018 reduced Tamil Nadu’s share of Cauvery water by 14.75 tmcft water per year, diverting the same to Karnataka.
• The judgement was delivered by a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Amitava Roy and A M Khanwilkar.
• The court stated that the decision to increase the water share of Karnataka was taken due to the 10 tmcft groundwater and 4.75 tmcft drinking water requirement for Bengaluru residents.
• With the decision, while Tamil Nadu’s share was decreased to 177 tmcft, Karnataka’s share was increased to 284.75 tmcft and Kerala’s and Puducherry’s share remained the same.
• The court, however, offered compensation by allowing Tamil Nadu to draw an additional 10 tmcft 'groundwater' from a total of 20 tmcft beneath the Cauvery basin.
• The Cauvery Water Tribunal, in its ruling in 2007, had allocated 192 TMC water to Tamil Nadu, 270 TMC water to Karnataka, 30 tmcft to Kerala and 7 tmcft to Puducherry per year.
• The court in its verdict had also directed the Centre to frame the Cauvery management scheme, including the creation of the Cauvery Management Board, for the release of the River’s water from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.
• The water sharing of Cauvery River has been a major source of conflict between the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
• The origin of this conflict can be traced back to two agreements in 1892 and 1924, which had taken place between the then Madras Presidency and the Kingdom of Mysore.
• Based on inflow Karnataka has been demanding its due share of water from the river. It stated that the pre-independence agreements were invalid and majorly favour the Madras Presidency, and demanded a renegotiated settlement based on equitable sharing of the waters.
• Tamil Nadu, on the other hand, stated that it has already developed almost 3,000,000 acres (12,000 km2) of land and as a result has come to depend very heavily on the existing pattern of usage and any change in the pattern will adversely affect the livelihood of millions of farmers in the state.
• The Government of India constituted a tribunal in 1990 to look into the matter.
• After hearing arguments of all the parties involved for the next 16 years, the tribunal delivered its final verdict on February 5, 2007.
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