Single Tribunal To Hear Water Disputes

By moderator July 11, 2019 11:32

News: The Union Cabinet has approved the Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019.


  • 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.
  • When any request under the Act is received from any State Government in respect of any water dispute on the inter-State rivers and the Central government is of the opinion that the water dispute cannot be settled by negotiations, the Central Government constitutes a Water Disputes Tribunal for the adjudication of the water dispute.
  • The standalone tribunal so envisaged will have a permanent establishment, office space, and infrastructure so as to obviate with the need to set up a separate tribunal for each water dispute – a time-consuming process.
  • The Bill also proposes a Dispute Resolution Committee set up by the Central Government for amicably resolving inter-State water disputes within 18 months. Any dispute that cannot be settled by negotiations would be referred to the tribunal for its adjudication. The dispute so-referred to the tribunal shall be assigned by the chairperson of the tribunal to a Bench of the tribunal for adjudication.
  • The Bill can also affect the composition of the members of various tribunals and has a provision to have a technical expert as the head of the tribunal.

Current scenario

  • There are about a dozen tribunals that now exist to resolve disputes among States on sharing water from rivers common to them.
  • Currently, all tribunals are staffed by members of the judiciary, nominated by the Chief Justice.


  1. Adjudication of disputes relating to waters of inter-State rivers or river valleys

(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.

(2) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, 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 is referred to in clause (1) Coordination between States.

Water is a State subject as per Entry 17 of State List and thus states are empowered to enact legislation on water.

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 gives power to 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.

  • Inter-State Water Dispute Act, 1956:
  • Provisions of the Act:

In case, if a particular state or states approach to Union Government for the constitution of the tribunal:
Ist Stage- Consultation: Central Government should try to resolve the matter by consultation among the aggrieved states.

2nd Stage- Tribunal: In case, if it does not work, then it may constitute the tribunal.

  • Note: Supreme Court shall not question the Award or formula given by tribunal but it can
    question the working of the tribunal.
  • Composition: Tribunal is constituted by the Chief Justice of India and it consists of the sitting judge of the Supreme Court and the other two judges who can be from the Supreme Court or High Court.

In 2002, an Amendment was made in the Act by which the tribunal has to be constituted within a year of getting the request.

  • It has also been mandated that the tribunal should give the award within 3 years. In certain situations, two more years can be given. Thus the maximum time period was 5 years within which the tribunal should give the award.
  • Tribunal award is not immediately implemented. Concerned parties may seek clarification within 3 months of the award.
  • It has also been clarified that the Tribunal Awards will have the same force as the order or decree of the Supreme Court. The award is final and beyond the jurisdiction of Supreme Court.

Mains Question: Constitutional mechanisms to resolve the inter-state water disputes have failed to address and solve the problems. Is the failure due to structural or process inadequacy or both? Discuss. (GSM 2, 2013)

Also Read: Inter-State Water Disputes

Mahadayi River Dispute

By moderator July 11, 2019 11:32