A bill seeking to expedite and streamline resolution of inter-state water disputes was approved by Lok Sabha. A key feature of the Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is the constitution of a single tribunal with different benches, and the setting up of strict timelines for adjudication. The Lower House approved the bill, which seeks to amend the Inter State River Water Disputes Act, 1956.
Disputes Resolution Committee
- Under the proposed law, 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.
- 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.
- Under the Bill, when a state puts in a request regarding any water dispute, the central government will set up a Disputes Resolution Committee (DRC), to resolve the dispute amicably.
- The DRC will comprise of a Chairperson, and experts with at least 15 years of experience in relevant sectors, to be nominated by the central government.
- It will also comprise one member from each state (at Joint Secretary level), who are party to the dispute, to be nominated by the concerned state government.
- The DRC will seek to resolve the dispute through negotiations, within one year (extendable by six months), and submit its report to the central government.
- If a dispute cannot be settled by the DRC, the central government will refer it to the Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal. Such referral must be made within three months from the receipt of the report from the DRC.
- The central government will set up an Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal, for the adjudication of water disputes. 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 the new Tribunal.
- The Tribunal will consist of a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, three judicial members, and three expert members. They will be appointed by the central government on the recommendation of a Selection Committee.
- Each Tribunal Bench will consist of a Chairperson or Vice-Chairperson, a judicial member, and an expert member. The central government may also appoint two experts serving in the Central Water Engineering Service as assessors to advise the Bench in its proceedings. The assessor should not be from the state which is a party to the dispute.