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Bill to set up single tribunal to settle inter-state water disputes in LS


New Delhi, July 25: A bill to help adjudicate disputes relating to waters of inter-State rivers and river valleys at a faster pace was introduced in Lok Sabha on Thursday amid protests by opposition parties which said states were not consulted.

Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said in 2013 the states were consulted and 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.

Bill to set up single tribunal to settle inter-state water disputes in LS

"There are nine (separate) tribunals (to adjudicate water disputes). Four of the tribunals took 10 to 28 years to deliver their award. There is no timeframe to adjudicate disputes and tribunals were extended indefinitely," the minister said supporting the amendment bill.

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Nishikant Dubey (BJP) said such laws were necessary to settle disputes at a faster pace. Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, B Mahtab (BJD) and T R Baalu objected to the introduction, saying the bill does not explain whether states were consulted as water is a state subject.

Mahtab said while the intent of the bill is not under doubt, the states should have been consulted. Baalu said the bill was brought "overnight" and the government is "bulldozing" legislations even as the state governments remain ignorant about such proposals. The bill was later introduced by a voice vote.

The Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019 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 resolve, sources said.

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The 2017 bill could not get parliamentary nod. 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, the sources said.

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.

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