Inter-State Water Disputes

Can SC hear appeals against Tribunal decisions?
No, the Centre had opposed the Supreme Court hearing appeals filed by Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala against the tribunal decision. According to the Centre, the Supreme Court was barred under Article 262 (3) and provisions of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956 from entertaining appeals under Article 136 against the Cauvery tribunal’s award.
What the law says?
Article 262, dealing with the adjudication of disputes relating to waters of inter-state rivers or river valleys, says:
  • 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.
  • 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).
Pursuant to the power conferred by the Constitution (article 262), Parliament has enacted the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956. Key features include:
  • A State Government which has a water dispute with another State Government may request the Central Government to refer the dispute to a tribunal for adjudication.
  • The Central Government, if it is of opinion that the dispute cannot be settled by negotiation, shall refer the dispute to a Tribunal.
  • The Tribunal’s composition is laid down in the Act. It consists of a Chairman and two other members, nominated by the Chief Justice of India from among persons who, at the time of such nomination, are Judges of the Supreme Court.
  • The Tribunal can appoint assessors to advise it in the proceedings before it.
  • On the reference being made by the Central Government, the Tribunal investigates the matter and makes its report, embodying its decision. The decision is to be published and is to be final and binding on the parties.
  • Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and other courts in respect of the dispute referred to the Tribunal is barred.
  • The Central Government may frame a scheme, providing for all matters necessary to give effect to the decision of the Tribunal. The scheme may, inter alia, provide for establishing an authority for implementing (section 6A).
Article 136: Special Leave Petitions are heard by the Supreme Court under Article 136(1) of the constitution. This provision enables the Supreme Court to grant “special leave to appeal from any judgment, decree, determination, sentence or order in any cause or matter passed or made by any court or tribunal in the territory of India”.
Thus Article 136 and Article 262 appears to be in conflict. Hence this debate.
The right to access water is considered as a human rights issue. Critically discuss how this issue is interrelated to the claims of riparian states‘ claim to share of river waters. (200 Words)
Right to access water is a human right, which is conferred by our constitution as an fundamental right by art 21. Water is not just a social commodity but now a days it has evolved as an economic and political commodity and bone of contention among riparian states.
Interaction with the claims of riparian states to share river water:
  1. Agriculture and food security: riparian states mainly depend on river water for agriculture, which is the backbone of Indian food security. The river dispute issues intensified mostly among the states in low rainfall areas or irrigation dependents. The various river dispute tribunals e.g. kaveri water tribunal, krishna water tribunal etc. are basically created to share water for agricultural purposes.
  2. Multipurpose projects and dams: these are created for irrigation, power generation, flood control, water supply etc. Thus various issues arises among the upstream and downstream states regarding height of dam, fragility of environment, replacement and rehabilitation issues. Alamati dam issue, mandeyi river issue are among them.
  3. River Interlinking: It is usually done to divert river water from sufficient to deficient river basin but many issues arises such as environmental assessment, submergence of surrounding lands etc. Polavaram project could be a good example.
  4. Unborn states share: such kind of issue arises when some judgement given by a tribunal over the disputed river and after that new state come into being. The krishna water tribunal is an example where the parties were AP, Maharashtra, Karnataka. But as the new state Telangana has come into being it has recently approached to supreme court for its right to get proper share.
  5. Water is also required for industrial development.
  6. Migration from rural to urban india and rapid urbanization also requires more water.
India land of rivers. Rivers depend on monsoon for refilling. Ground water also depend on rainwater and water in rivers. India receives 75% rainfall in just 3 months. These 3 months have abundant water causing floods while remaining 9 months face water scarcity in one region or other.

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