The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Centre to notify the 2007 Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal (CWDT) award by February 20.
Passing its order, a three-judge bench presided over by Justice R M Lodha slammed the Union government for “flouting” the statute by failing to publish the award for the last six years.
“Although no time frame is given for publication of notification but since more than five years have lapsed, we direct the central government to publish the final decision given by the CWDT on February 5, 2007 as early as possible, and not later than February 20,” the bench said.
The final decision of the CWDT set up on June 2, 1990, to chalk out water sharing formula between sparring states could not be implemented as the Centre did not notify the award. Both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka had sought clarification on it and also filed an appeal in the apex court against the final decision.
During the hearing, the apex court directed the Central Water Commission chairman to send a three-member expert team for ascertaining the total area of standing samba crop in Tamil Nadu and send a report by February 6. The bench, meanwhile, permitted Tamil Nadu to release 2 tmc ft of water from its storage in Mettur which would be compensated by Karnataka.
At the outset, Additional Solicitor General H P Raval, appearing for the Centre, had a tough time as the bench asked him to explain the difficulty in notifying the award, pointing out that both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka had on January 4 made a statement before the court saying that they had no objection on it.
Raval pointed out that Karnataka’s chief secretary had shot off a letter on January 10, urging the Centre to hold back its decision.
On this, the bench said, “This is too much, if statements were made before the court. You have to assert your position. This is not the way you will honour the commitment given before us.”
“For more than five years, you have flouted the mandate of the Act. So far you have no option but to publish the final award, that is the mandate given to you by Parliament in the Act,” the bench, also comprising Justices J Chelameswar and Madan B Lokur, said.
The court referred to Section 6 of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, which enjoined the Centre to publish the final decision of the tribunal.
The court also questioned the Union government for trying to reach an agreement between the parties despite knowing that they had expressed no objection on the matter before it.
The bench rejected Raval’s plea seeking more time for notifying the award. “This is a strange plea received from the government. Law does not give you a choice or discretion. By not publishing the award, are you not abdicating your responsibility?”
“We are not satisfied with your stand. We can’t hold your head to say to that you have to do it,” the bench said in strong observation against the Centre.
In its order, the court also clarified that the Centre’s decision to notify the final decision of the tribunal would not prejudice the right of the parties to challenge the award or the other pending proceedings.