Existing river dispute tribunals fail to resolve issues: govt

RSTV Bureau
File image: Cauvery river

File image: Cauvery river

Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat Wednesday said the existing tribunals constituted for resolution of river water disputes among states have failed to resolve the conflict and needed to change the approach on how to resolve such issues.

Moving The Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019 for consideration and passage in Lok Sabha, the union minister said there have been instances when a tribunal could not resolve a dispute between states for 33 years.

Shekhawat said the 1956 Act was amended in 2002 setting a target of five years for resolution of any river water dispute.

However, the very purpose of bringing the amendment was defeated when the tenure of tribunals were given one after another extension, he said.

The minister also rued irregular sittings of tribunals, leading to long delay in giving awards.

Among the nine river water tribunals, only four could submit its reports which too came after a seven to 28 year delay.

Except one or two tribunals, no tribunal sat regularly, he said.

Shekhawat also said an institutional mechanism will be set up so that states can approach it for resolution of any dispute before going to a tribunal.

The Bill seeks to amend the Inter State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 to streamline the adjudication of inter-state river water disputes.

A key feature of the bill is the constitution of a single tribunal with different benches, and the setting of strict timelines for adjudication.

Benches will be set up under the single tribunal. A retired Supreme Court judge will head the tribunal.

There will be benches formed as and when required. The benches though will be wound up once a dispute is resolved, sources said.

The tribunal will be mandated to deliver final award in two years and it is proposed that whenever it gives order, the verdict gets notified automatically.

As per the current provisions of the 1956 Act, a tribunal can be formed after a state government approaches the Union government with such a request and the Centre is convinced of the need to form the tribunal.

At present, there are nine Tribunals including those on Cauvery, Mahadayi, Ravi and Beas, Vansadhara and Krishna rivers.

A similar bill was brought to Lok Sabha in 2017. The bill was then referred to the standing committee, but the draft law lapsed as the term of the 16th Lok Sabha had ended.

(With inputs from agency)