The Supreme Court on Monday rapped the Centre for not framing the Cauvery water-sharing ‘scheme’, ordering it to prove its bona fide and submit a draft scheme by May 3.

The three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, voiced suspicion about the Centre’s resolve to play its crucial part in ending the water conflict between neighbours Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

A February 16 judgment of the Supreme Court had directed the Centre to frame the scheme by March 29. Yet, on the eve of the deadline, the Centre moved the court for another three months to frame the Cauvery scheme. This would have taken it well past the Karnataka Assembly elections, scheduled for on May 12.

“You are bound by our decree... You are obliged to frame the scheme. We are surprised that it was not done... We have delivered the judgment after much study and difficulty... yet you did not show the resolve to frame the scheme,” Chief Justice Dipak Misra addressed Attorney-General KK Venugopal, for the Centre.

Tamil Nadu counsel and senior advocate Shekhar Naphadepointed out that, in India, litigation starts after the court decree.

“Absolutely right. Now you (the Centre) must show your bona fide by framing a scheme... You should show respect to the principle of distribution of water.... Let the draft scheme be filed before the court... You (the States) can give your suggestions... When the scheme comes into effect, it will become binding,” Misra said.

The court was primarily hearing a contempt petition filed by Tamil Nadu against the Centre.

The Bench, also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, asked the people of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to maintain peace “so that the court can put its final stamp on the scheme”.

“Please tell your people, when the matter is before us, they must co-operate,” Misra said.

Naphade, along with advocate G Umpathy, replied that the people were only conveying their anguish. “Your Lordships’ judgment of February 16 is crystal clear. Anyone who understands elementary English will understand it. Yet, the Centre says it is not clear,” Naphade submitted.

The Chief Justice allayed Tamil Nadu’s fears that a draft scheme would provoke another round of litigation while farmers in the State suffer for lack of water.

“We will ensure it (scheme) is implemented,” Misra told Naphade.

Naphade sought clarity about the setting up of the Cauvery Management Board.

“The statute says ‘scheme’. Our judgment says ‘scheme’,” Misra replied. “But a scheme ultimately must provide for a Board or an implementing authority,” Naphade persisted.

“Obviously!” Misra reacted.

When Venugopal said the Centre needs clarifications about the structure of the Board, etc, Misra replied sharply: “Every time, the Supreme Court cannot monitor”.

Venugopal asked if the Board should have engineers alone and not administrative members.

“We don’t know... You implement it. Please remember, our order has to be complied with... You better implement our decree,” Misra said.

The Chief Justice said the parties, especially the Centre, need not be bothered about the Cauvery Tribunal award of 2007. “The tribunal order has merged with the decree,” he said.

Tamil Nadu has charged the Centre with not “protecting the interests of the farmers and the larger interests of the State”.