Author- Aayushi Agrawal
BA LLB, Second Year
Sinhagad Law College, Pune
The proposed bill was basically about bringing amendment in the Inter-state River Water Dispute Act, 19561.
Let’s first know what this act all about.
There are so many rivers flow from one state to another all over India. This act speaks about adjudication of the river disputes which arises between two or more states. For example, Cauvery water Issue2. In this four states are involved- Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry. Many more examples are there of ongoing water disputes in India- Ravi and Baes, Vasandhara3, Krishna4, Mahadayi, etc.
According to this act, a tribunal is constituted by the central government, on the request raised by the state government, after seeing the factor of negotiation between states. Due to some drawbacks of this act of 1956, i.e, efficiency and effectiveness of the act, based on the delays and duplicity possibility. Tribunals formed so far does not meet the requirements that it was supposed to do.
Considering all these shortcomings an amendment was proposed in parliament on 25th July 2019 and it passed the locus and it passed in Lok Sabha on 31st July 19.
Now with this new amendment bill it was proposed to change these mechanisms of the tribunal with more effective and efficient ways to settle disputes of river valleys between states. It proposed to form or constitute a permanent tribunal in this context which will take decisions for any of the disputes regarding river water in all over India whether in northern part, southern part, eastern part and western part.
What is the issue?
1. The inter-state water disputes are one of sensitive issues challenging India’s federalism.
2. It is the state’s dispute over sharing of rivers.
3. Various measures have been taken so far by the government but they have not yielded the necessary solutions.
4. Some of the recent cases include the Cauvery water dispute and Salley Yamuna link Canal5.
1. Act No. 33 of 1956.
2. Cauvery water v. Unknown, A.I.R. 1992 S.C. 522, (1991)(India).
3. W.P.(C) No. 443 of 2006 filled by State of Odisha came up for hearing before the Supreme Court on 30 Apr.,2007.
4. State of Andhra Pradesh v. State of Karnataka. Original suit 2 of 1997.
5. Govt. of Punjab filed on Original suit No. 1/2003 in the Supreme Court on 13.01.2003 citing certain changed circumstances and praying for dissolution of the obligation to construct the canal.
Constitutional Provisions regarding Inter-state river water
1. Entry 17 of State list6 deals with water i.e. water supply, irrigation, canal, drainage, embankment, water storage and water power.
2. Entry 56 of Union list7 empowers the Union Government for the regulation and development of inter-state rivers and river valleys to the extent declared by Parliament to be expedient in the public interest.
3. According to Article 262, in case of disputes relating to waters:
a. Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of the waters of, or in, any inter-sate river or river valley.
b. Parliament may, by law provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint.
Dispute Resolution Committee
Earlier, in the Act of 1956 , the state government approached the central government with its dispute for River water. The central government will look to scope of negotiation and if not possible with negotiation then it will constitute a tribunal for resolving the dispute. But here, with new proposed bill, there will be formation of dispute resolving committee which will work in time framed manner with two tier approach. First of all it will look for negotiation. It will be passed to tribunal if negotiation will not be possible. The central government will monitor whether this Committee is working in the time frame manner.
This committee constitute a chair-person with 15 years of experience. It will have representatives from each state involved in the dispute to ensure the federal nature of the committee . The time framed for the solving of the issue will be one year but it can be once extended to six months. Accordingly it will submit its report to the central government. But in case, if this dispute resolution committee will not able to solve the issue it will be forwarded to the tribunal ,that is, Interstate River water dispute tribunal, which will permanent in nature. This refers to the two tier approach we said earlier.
Key Provisions of Interstate River Water Tribunal
The central government will set up an Interstate River water dispute tribunal in order to adjudicate all the River water disputes. Looking forward to the key provisions of these tribunal can have multiple benches. Since 1956, 9 tribunals were constituted. Among these nine tribunals, 4 have already declared their awards but the rest yet to release their awards. So rest 5 tribunals will be dissolved if it becomes an act.
1. Indian Constitution, VII Schedule, II List
2. Indian Constitution, VII Schedule, I List
1. Composition- It will consist chairperson, vice chairperson, three judicial members and three experts. Which will be appointed by central government with the recommendations of selection committee. Each bench will have chairperson, vice chairperson, one judicial person and an expert member.
2. Time frames- The main purpose of bill is about effectiveness and efficiency of the tribunal is working. So time frames becomes very important to this. The tribunals must give this award or decision in three years or maximum it can extend to two more years ,i.e., five years Is given to give or declare its award. It can forward it to state Government for further consideration. In that case tribunal have to give its decision in one year.
3. Decision- The decision given by the tribunal must be published on official gazette of central government. This decision will be considered as same forceful as of Supreme Court . Then it has no provisions for further appeal. It also makes clear that decision of tribunal will be final and binding the parties involved.
4. Data bank- The bill proposed the central government to authorize an agency to maintain the data bank. Originally it was maintained by central government but now request for agency to maintain that data is proposed.
Effects of Bill Proposed
1. Strict timelines: A proper time framed structure of working will be established which will help in getting the dispute solved faster without delays. Unlike earlier, tribunals cannot put the case pending. They have to give decision in limited time. The central government will especially monitor the work to be done in particular assigned time.
2. Single tribunal: constitution of a single tribunal with different benches along with fixation of strict timelines for adjudication will help to recover the drawback of the Act of 1956 of effectiveness and efficient working. All the current working tribunals will be merged to this permanent tribunal. Further decision of tribunals will be given by this permanent nature.
3. Speed up the adjudication: The amendment proposed by the Bill will speed up the adjudication of river water disputes referred to it with strict timelines and a single tribunal mechanism. Apart from this, the central government will also monitor the working of this tribunal followed by strict timelines which will avoid the delays and red-tapism of the machinery.