The Supreme Court on Friday approved the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) for the implementation of the 2007 Cauvery Award, as modified and reaffirmed by the top court by its February 16 judgment.
"The corrected draft scheme is in consonance with the dictum and directions in the Award, as modified by this court and also in conformity with Section 6A of the 1956 Act," the court said while telling the Centre that "the draft scheme ought to be taken forward to its logical end in accordance with law with utmost dispatch".
"We hope and trust that the draft scheme ... is notified in the Official Gazette and given effect to with promptitude before the onset of the monsoon," the court ordered.
Headquartered in Delhi, the CWMA will be the sole body to implement the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal award -- aimed at distribution of Cauvery waters between Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry -- as modified by the apex court. The Centre would have no say in it except for issuing administrative advisories to it.
The CWMA will be assisted in the discharge of its functions by a Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) located in Bengaluru.
The CWRC is mandated to collect daily water levels, inflows and storage position at Hemavathy, Harangi, Krishnarajasagara, Kabini, Mettur, Bhavanisagar, Amaravathy and Banasurasagar reservoirs.
"The fact that the subject of water, that is to say, water supplies, irrigation and canals, drainage and embankments, water storage and water power, forms part of Entry 17 of List II of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution, cannot be the basis to whittle down the efficacy of the Award ..., to ensure smooth, effective and efficient implementation of the Award ...," said Justice Khanwilkar.
The court said: "The draft scheme has been formulated singularly for that purpose and the same will have to be taken forward to its logical end in accordance with law with promptitude" and with utmost dispatch.
"Needless to observe, we cannot allow the parties to reopen the issues already settled in the Award and as modified by this court, indirectly in the guise of questioning the appropriateness of Clause 9(3)(iii) in the draft scheme...."
It said that the CWMA will be bound by the contours regarding apportionment of river water in terms of the Award.
While doing so, the authority is "expected to take into account all factors that may be relevant at the given point of time, including to identify the situation of distress in the basin caused due to identifiable factors before quantifying the water quantity for being released or allotted to the party States/UT for the relevant period".
On May 14, the Centre submitted in the Supreme Court the draft of the Cauvery management scheme, following which the court had said it will examine whether the scheme conformed to its February 16 judgment.
On May 16, the court asked the Centre to modify its draft scheme and remove clauses which said that in case of any dispute between the four States over the sharing and allocation of water, it would be the final arbiter and its decision would be binding.
Another clause that did not find favour with the court was that the Centre can issue directions to the CWMA from time to time.
The court said that at best the Centre could give administrative advisories to the CWMA.
The modified draft affirmed on Friday was submitted to the apex court on May 17.
The authority is vested with the power and duty to "do any or all things necessary, sufficient and expedient for securing compliance and implementation of the final decision and directions of the tribunal further modified by Supreme Court order" of February 16, 2018.
The CWMA has been vested with the powers to supervise the storage, apportionment, regulation and control of Cauvery waters; supervision of operation of reservoirs and with regulation of water releases with the assistance of Regulation Committee; and regulated release by Karnataka at the inter-state contact point at Billigundulu gauge and discharge station, located on the border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
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