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Q. Permanent tribunal for river water disputes: Discuss the pros and cons of having permanent river water tribunal.
Dec 20, 2016 Related to : GS Paper-2

Ans :

Introduction-

Recently Union Cabinet has proposed to have a permanent tribunal that will subsume existing tribunals is expected to provide for speedier adjudication. A decision to approve an amendment to the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956 was taken at the Union Cabinet’s meeting and the amendment is likely to be introduced in Parliament in its next session. 

Permanent Tribunal-

According to proposed changes, there will be only one permanent Tribunal with retired Supreme Court judge as its chairperson. There will be benches formed as and when required. The benches though will be wound up once a dispute is resolve. The proposed Tribunal is expected to deliver its verdict during a span of three years. Having permanent tribunals has its own pros and cons. 

Pros- 

  • Having permanent tribunal to adjudicate river water disputes between States will undoubtedly be a vast improvement over the present system of setting up ad-hoc tribunals.
  • It also has a Dispute Resolution Committee, an expert body that will seek to resolve inter-State differences before a tribunal is approached, it will discourage for needless litigation.
  • Another a positive feature of the proposed changes is that there will be an expert agency to collect data on rainfall, irrigation and surface water flows. 
  • It acquires importance because party-States have a tendency to fiercely question data provided by the other side. A permanent forum having reliable data in its hands sounds like an ideal mechanism to apportion water. 

Cons-

  • Given the number of ongoing inter-State disputes and those likely to arise in future, it may be difficult for a single institution with a former Supreme Court judge as its chairperson to give its ruling within three years. 
  • Its interlocutory orders as well as final award are likely to be challenged in the Supreme Court, hence it is unlikely to reduce the burden and delays the judgement.
  • A confusing aspect is that benches of the permanent tribunal are going to be created to look into disputes as and when they arise. It is not clear in what way these temporary benches would be different from the present tribunals.

Conclusion-

River water tribunals in India took ages to deliver final awards into disputes, where as the proposed Tribunal is expected to deliver its verdict during a span of three years. It will resolve grievances of states in speedy manner. But it has some issues, hence before finalising the changes in water dispute act, government should address those concerns.  


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