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Inter-state River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill

Topic covered:

Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

 

Inter-state River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Key features, need for and significance of the bill.

 

Context: Lok Sabha has passed the Inter-State River Water disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

The Bill seeks to amend the Inter State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 with a view to streamline the adjudication of inter-state river water disputes and make the present institutional architecture robust.

 

Features of the bill:

Disputes Resolution Committee: The Bill requires the central government to set up a Disputes Resolution Committee (DRC), for resolving any inter-state water dispute amicably. The DRC will get a period of one year, extendable by six months, to submit its report to the central government.

Members of DRC: Members of the DRC will be from relevant fields, as deemed fit by the central government.

Tribunal: The Bill proposes to set up an Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal, for adjudication of water disputes, if a dispute is not resolved through the DRC.  This tribunal can have multiple benches. All existing tribunals will be dissolved and the water disputes pending adjudication before such existing tribunals will be transferred to this newly formed tribunal.

Composition of the Tribunal: The tribunal shall consist of a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, and not more than six nominated members (judges of the Supreme Court or of a High Court), nominated by the Chief Justice of India. 

 

Drawbacks of interstate Water Dispute Act, 1956:

The Inter State Water Dispute Act, 1956 which provides the legal framework to address such disputes suffers from many drawbacks as it does not fix any time limit for resolving river water disputes.

Delays are on account of no time limit for adjudication by a Tribunal, no upper age limit for the Chairman or the Members, work getting stalled due to occurrence of any vacancy and no time limit for publishing the report of the Tribunal.

The River Boards Act 1956, which is supposed to facilitate inter-state collaboration over water resource development, remained a ‘dead letter’ since its enactment.

Surface water is controlled by Central Water Commission (CWC) and ground water by Central Ground Water Board of India (CGWB). Both bodies work independently and there is no common forum for common discussion with state governments on water management.

 

Way forward:

The Centre’s proposal to set up a single, permanent tribunal to adjudicate on inter-state river water disputes could be a major step towards streamlining the dispute redressal mechanism.

However, this alone will not be able to address the different kinds of problems—legal, administrative, constitutional and political—that plague the overall framework.

To strengthen the cooperative federalism, disputes must be resolved by dialogue and talks and the political opportunism must be avoided.

A robust and transparent institutional framework with cooperative approach is need of the hour.

 

Provisions related to interstate river water disputes:

Entry 17 of State List deals with water i.e. water supply, irrigation, canal, drainage, embankments, water storage and water power.

Entry 56 of Union List 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.

Article 262: In the case of disputes relating to waters, it provides

  • Clause 1: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-State river or river valley.
  • Clause 2: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 as mentioned above.

 

 

Sources: the Hindu.