Tribune News Service
New Delhi, March 14
The Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill 2017, which seeks to create a single tribunal for adjudicating inter-state water disputes, subsuming the existing tribunals, was introduced by Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti in the Lok Sabha today, amid BJD opposition.
Bhartruhari Mahtap of the BJD argued water being a state subject, the Centre was “overstepping” Constitutional limits by introducing the Bill. The minister rejected the argument, saying the Bill was necessary in times when states were increasingly refusing to honour the awards of multiple existing tribunals, mentioning the dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over the Cauvery waters. “This is a revolutionary step. It’s a well-planned Bill,” she said.
According to the Bill, the proposed tribunal would have multiple benches. It would be headed by a chairperson with a five-year term. The time period to adjudicate a dispute would be a maximum of four-and-a-half years. The tribunal’s decision would be binding on the states. The government argues that owing to the rising water demand in states, disputes are on the rise. Though the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act 1956 provides for a legal framework to address these disputes, it “suffers has various drawbacks.”
In a statement later, the Union Water Resources Ministry cited delay in adjudication by tribunals set up earlier as one of the main drawbacks. “The decision of the tribunal shall be final and binding with no requirement of publication in the official Gazette,” it said.
The Bill provides for appointment of assessors to provide technical support to the tribunal. It proposes to introduce a mechanism to resolve grievances “amicably” through a dispute resolution committee to be established by the Centre.
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