The Union Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Uma Bharti introduced the Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2017 in Lok Sabha on 14 March 2017.
The minister called the bill as a revolutionary step towards the resolution of Inter- State River Water Disputes.
• The bill proposes the creation of a Single Standing Tribunal with multiple benches instead of the existing multiple tribunals.
• The proposed single tribunal would comprise a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and a maximum of 6 other members.
• While the term of office of the Chairperson will be five years or till the time he reaches the age of 70, the term of office of the Vice-Chairperson and other members of the tribunal will be linked to the adjudication of the water dispute.
• Besides this, the bill proposes the appointment of Assessors to provide technical support to the tribunal. The assessors would be appointed from among the experts already serving in the Central Water engineering Service, above the rank of Chief Engineer.
• It also proposes the introduction of a mechanism - Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC) to resolve disputes cordially through negotiations before it is referred to the tribunal.
• The proposed committee is to be established by the Union Government, consisting of relevant experts.
• The bill also proposes the setting up of a transparent data collection system at the national level for each river basin and the establishment of a centre authorised agency for the same, which will be expected to maintain the databank and information system.
• The bill also fixed the total time period for adjudication of the dispute to a maximum of four and half years.
• It also determined that the decision of the tribunal would be final and binding with no requirement of publication in the official Gazette.
The increase in water demands by states has led to a rise in inter-state river water disputes and the Inter-State Water Dispute Act, 1956 that provides the legal framework to address the disputes has many drawbacks.