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A bill which seeks to to set up a single, permanent tribunal to adjudicate all inter-state river water disputes subsuming existing tribunals was introduced in the Lok Sabha today.
Moving the bill, Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti called it "revolutionary" amid opposition by Bhartruhari Mahtab of BJD who said it was "very wrongly drafted" and asked the government to consult the states before bringing it.
Rejecting his contention, Bharti said he had not given any logical reasoning as to why he considered the bill, which is aimed at resolving grievances of states in a speedy manner by amending the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956, as badly drafted.
Citing the Cauvery water dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, she said the new law will be effective in dealing with such disputes and sought support of members of various parties for its passage.
"The proposed bill seeks to provide for a single tribunal (with multiple benches) instead of multiple tribunals. It shall consist of one chairperson, one vice-chairperson and not more than six members...
"The total time period for adjudication of a water dispute has been fixed at a maximum of four and half years. The decision of the bench of the tribunal shall be final and binding on the states concerned...," the bill says.
It notes that inter-state river water disputes are on the rise on account of increase in demand of water by states.
The existing Act suffers from many "drawbacks", it says.
The Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956 "suffers
from many drawbacks", the government said, adding the bill proposes to "streamline" adjudication in such matters.
In a statement issued later, the Union Water Resources Ministry cited delay in adjudication by tribunals set up earlier as one of the main "drawbacks".
"The decision of the tribunal shall be final and binding with no requirement of publication in the official Gazette," it added.
The Ministry said that, according to the bill, the term of office of the tribunal chairperson will be of five years or till he attains the age of 70 years, whichever is earlier.
The term of office of vice chairperson and other member of tribunal shall be co-terminus with the adjudication of the water dispute, it said.
The legislation provides for appointment of assessors to provide technical support to the tribunal. They shall be appointed from amongst experts serving in the Central Water Engineering Service not below the rank of chief engineer.
The bill proposes to introduce mechanism to resolve grievances "amicably" through a dispute resolution committee (DRC) to be established by Centre.
The DRC will deal with complaints of states before it is referred to the tribunal.
Among other, the legislation provides for transparent data collection system at national-level for each river basin. For this purpose, an agency to maintain data bank and information system shall be appointed or authorised by Centre, it said.
The Ministry had to last year play mediator in several disputes including between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over sharing of Cauvery river water.