Opposing the constitution of a permanent water disputes tribunal, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami today told the Centre that the functioning of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) should not be hampered.
“There is no need to constitute a permanent water disputes tribunal to adjudicate inter-state river water disputes,” he said.
This was the state’s decision after examining the matter following a communique from the Centre over it, Palaniswami said in a letter to Union minister Nitin Gadkari, who holds the water resources portfolio.
Citing a communique on the proposed Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2017, the chief minister said it would have “far-reaching implications”.
He said the CWDT’s functioning should not be hampered under the pretext of transferring the pending applications to the proposed inter-state river water disputes tribunal.
“The Tamil Nadu government firmly believes that the provisions of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956, as amended up to 2002, would suffice to adjudicate the water disputes amongst the states.
“…and therefore, there is no need to make amendments to the provisions of the Act, as envisaged by the Government of India in the draft Bill of 2017,” Palaniswami said.
“I, therefore, urge you to kindly not process or proceed further on the Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha, among others, that envisages the constitution of a permanent water disputes tribunal to adjudicate river water disputes amongst the states,” he stressed.
Listing out the “implications”, he said every water dispute was unique, the river basins differed and the present 1956 Act did not speak about the tenure of the chairman and the two other members of the tribunal.
However, in the proposed amendment, an upper age limit was prescribed for the members, the chief minister noted.
As regards the CWDT, he said, the members were hearing the dispute since 1991 and that they had already crossed 70 years of age.
The chief minister said if the draft bill was enacted and if it came into force, the two members would cease to hold office…”because of the age constraint, and so also the chairman”.
On the enactment of the draft bill, he said the pending applications could not be transferred to the inter-state river water disputes tribunal without the nod of the apex court, since the Cauvery tribunal was set up by the Centre, following a 1990 Supreme Court order.
With respect to the Cauvery water dispute, only certain applications were pending for forwarding a report to the Centre, he added.
“The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal will be in a better position, in terms of continuity and institutional memory, to dispose of…applications,” Palaniswami said.
“In these circumstances, there is no need to transfer the…matters pending before the tribunal to the permanent water disputes tribunal for adjudication, in the event of the proposed amendments to the 1956 Act coming into force,” he added.
Opposing a clause on data in the proposed amendment, Palaniswami said the data supplied by the state need not be verified by the Centre.
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