Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti introduced Tuesday a bill in the Lok Sabha that aims at the establishment of a single, permanent tribunal – with multiple branches – to adjudicate all inter-state river water disputes subsuming existing tribunals. The proposed tribunal will consist of a chairperson, a vice-chairperson and a maximum of six members.
As she sought to move the bill, BJD leader in the House Bhartruhari Mahtab registered an objection to it. The bill has been wrongly drafted, he said, and asked the government to come back after consultation with states. The minister stuck to the bill arguing that it was in conformity with Article 262 of the Constitution, which empowered the Centre to set up such a mechanism.
“This is a very badly drafted bill,” Mahtab said. “I think wisdom will definitely prevail on the government. My only request to the government is to reconsider introduction of this bill. You go back and prepare a good draft after consulting the respective provinces. You get their consent and come back to this House.”
Uma Bharti, while rejecting Mahtab’s criticism, said he had not put forward any logical arguments for substantiating his claim that the draft of the bill was flawed. She said Article 262 empowered the states to enact laws for resolving inter-state river water disputes. She cited the Cauvery water dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and said the new law will be effective in settling such matters. She told Mahtab that Odisha had requested the Centre to set up the tribunal while he was questioning the Centre’s authority to do so. Thereafter, Uma Bharti went ahead and introduced the bill while Mahtab kept quiet, though he looked dissatisfied.