Inter - State River Water Dispute
Inter-State River Water Disputes play a crucial role in the evolution of federalism in Indian politics. There are a large number of such disputes in our country. The Cauvery dispute involving Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry Union Territory, Vamsadara River dispute involving Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, Sutlej dispute involving Punjab, Haryana, Mahadayi river dispute involving Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka are the major ones. We have the following dispute settlement mechanism in Indian federalism to solve them.
The article 262 of the Constitution empowers the parliament to enact a law providing for the adjudication of any dispute, complaint relating to the use, distribution and control of any inter–State river or river valley. It also provides that parliament can exclude the Supreme Court or any other court from exercising any jurisdiction over inter-State river water disputes. For this purpose, parliament is empowered to enact a law overriding any provision of the Constitution. The logic of this provision is that inter–State river water disputes contain emotional and economic implications affecting the lives and livelihood of millions of people. Judicial adjudication of the disputes may create social and economic problems. Therefore, the national legislature must have competence to evolve a mechanism for resolution of these disputes through negotiations and direct dialogue.
Empowered by the article 262 of the Constitution the parliament enacted inter-State river water dispute act, 1956. This act enables the Union Government to establish a tribunal for the adjudication of an inter-State river water dispute. The Indian Constitutional and legal consensus is that all inter-State river water disputes must be resolved through peaceful negotiations. If no fruitful decisions can be reached through negotiations, the States concerned can approach the union for the Constitution of a tribunal on ad hoc basis for resolving that issue.
When the Union Government decides to constitute a tribunal, the Chief Justice of Supreme Court of India will nominate a person to head it. Earlier, the tribunal always used to consist of one person only but later on this provision was amended to include more members. The Chief Justice will choose a person (nominee?) from the sitting or retired Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts. The decision of the Tribunal shall be published in the Official Gazette and there after that decision shall be final and binding on the parties to the dispute. Neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall have jurisdiction over any inter-State water dispute referred to a tribunal under the Act. NO tribunal can be constituted for any dispute that has been placed for arbitration under the River Water Board Act, 1956.
In shortly, we can say that our Constitutional, legal and political strategy advocates a dual strategy to resolve inter-State river water disputes. It advocates negotiated settlement as the first choice if negotiations fail to resolve the issues, an ad hoc tribunal based adjudication should be established.