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River dispute tribunals remain defunct

New Delhi, May 30 (): Tribunals to settle inter-state river disputes have been largely unhelpful and remain defunct.

Eight tribunals were set up over a period of time but only three have come to a decision. The new Ministry of Water Resources has set out a task to activate the tribunals but it looks like a formidable task. Five of them seem to be nowhere near arriving at any decision even though the disputes are decades old.

The other tribunals are those that dealt with rivers Krishna, Narmada and Godavari. The Cauvery, Ravi & Beas, Krishna- II, Vansadhara and Mahadayi panels are yet to reach anywhere and the process of arbitration has been going on for three to four decades.

The tribunals per law have to arrive at a verdict within three years but disputes have dragged on.

In April 1986, the Ravi-Beas Tribunal constituted to settle a dispute involving three states- Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, has been defunct for almost nine years. In 1987 it gave its decision; further hearings were stopped in 2004 due to a Presidential Reference on the constitutional validity of the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004. The matter is now before the Supreme Court. The Chairman’s post is yet to be filled. The Krishna tribunal headed by Justice Brajesh finalized its report in 2006, after starting work in 2004. The Supreme Court asked the tribunal not to notify the order.

The Cauvery tribunal set up in 1990, had submitted its interim report in 2007 but the Supreme Court allowed the three states –Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka to move SLP and took upon themselves to find a solution.

The Mahadayi and Vansadhara tribunals came into being in 2010 and were without an office for two years, so it has been given more time by the apex court to submit their awards. They are to submit their reports by 2015.

Water dispute tribunals were created under Centre’s Water Disputes Act of 1956. The Supreme Court nominates a chairman and two members where all of them are judges of either High Court or Supreme Court.