The water tribunal trap ( Statuory bodies, GS paper 2,THE HINDU)


Summary of The Hindu Article in simple language.
Article is written after PM in the joint conference of CM And Chief Justice of High Courts raised concern if tribunals are creating barriers to delivering justice.
1.What is water tribunal ?
>Water tribunals were set up as alternatives to long-drawn courtroom litigation.
>Article 262 empowers the parliament to take steps for adjudicating conflicts surrounding inter-state rivers that arise among the states/regional governments.And therefore Interstate River Water Dispute Act was enacted.
> As per the  Act, the tribunal shall not only adjudicate but also investigate the matters referred to it by the central government and forward a report setting out the facts with its decisions.
>At the moment, there are multiple tribunals in place to resolve interstate water disputes, but the National Water Policy 2012 proposed setting up a permanent tribunal to replace them.
>The Constitution attaches a special status to interstate water disputes, whereby they neither fall under the Supreme Court’s nor any other court’s jurisdiction.
>These disputes can only be adjudicated by temporary and ad hoc interstate water dispute tribunals.
> Hence cannot be bundled with other tribunals.Require distinct approach
>Factors goes beyond the fuctioning of tribunal,
> These are linked to legal ambiguities,
>lack of implementing agency to implement awards
>noncompliant States, politicisation and so on.
Core reason- exception to the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction.
The permanent tribunal, while complying with this bar on the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction, will primarily act as a circuitous route to address the problem of disputes, as they will recur even after the ad hoc and temporary tribunals are disbanded.
Tribunals in Colonial times
1.Similar provision barring federal court jurisdiction
2.The Interstate Water Disputes Act, 1956, taken from Articles 130-134 of the Government of India Act 1935.
3.The Constituent Assembly rejected these arrangements, calling for a more permanent arrangement for dispute resolution. B.R. Ambedkar felt there would be ‘very many’ disputes, and the proposed arrengement to be ‘hidebound’
3.Thus, the Constituent Assembly deferred the responsibility of an appropriate legislation to Parliament via Article 262(1), while providing for the jurisdictional bar via Article 262(2).
4.In the Parliament tribunals Minsters lime Gulzarilal Nanda advocated for tribunals considering that there would not be much cases of water dispute and tribunals would provide swift and disposal.
5. Barring Supreme Court jurisdiction would prvent States litigating among themselves.
Good intentions, bad results
1. It translated well in the functioning of the first generation tribunals of Krishna, Narmada and Godavari.
2.Degenerated over time and became litigating
3.Punchhi Commission on Centre-State relations points out that
4. Several amendments to the 1956 act. reactionary in nature, diluted the spirit and rationale of the tribunal arrangements.
The history of the Act is filled with short-sighted and sutured responses to the symptoms of the degeneration and have avoided a comprehensive engagement with the problem of interstate water disputes.
Reforming interstate water dispute tribunals cannot be approached without considering their historical exception and the associated pitfalls. The discourse on ‘barriers’ and the drive for hasty reforms can set us on a wrong path, eclipsing the actual barriers that lie beyond the tribunal arrangement itself. After all, the present arrangement was driven by precisely the same concern for swift and definitive outcomes as the objections are. It is imperative to have a comprehensive review of interstate water dispute resolution, and also reconsider the Supreme Court’s jurisdictional bar.
(Srinivas Chokkakula is based at the Centre for Policy Re

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