he history and origin of legislation in this field can be traced back to pre-independence era. In Government of India Act, 1919, irrigation was made a provincial subject while on the other hand matters affecting relations of one province with any other territory were under central legislature. Then in Government of India Act, 1935, attention was given on river disputes between different provinces.
Constitutional Mechanism and its Implementation
Article 262 (1) of the Indian constitution states that Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute of complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of the waters of, or in, any inter-state river or river valley.
Article 262 (2) of the Indian constitution states that Parliament may by law provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute.
So, the responsibility to solve the water dispute is with parliament. The River Boards Act, 1956 & the Inter State Water Disputes Act, 1956 have been created for such a purpose.
Legislative Mechanism and its implementation
Certain laws and statutes have been passed by the parliament to address the issue of water disputes.
Inter-State Water Dispute Act, 1956
The act enables setting up of tribunals to settle disputes on Inter-State water or river when the Central government is of the view that the matter cannot be solved by negotiations.
According to the act, decisions given by the tribunals so constituted will be final and binding and no appeal can lie in Supreme Court. Thus the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and other courts is clearly barred in such matters. However, the tribunal is only vested with decision making role, the implementation of such decision is not its outlook.
Furthermore, tribunal’s responsibility is not limited only to adjudicate the matters but also investigation of matters which are of public importance like water pollution, flood control, sustainability of river basin productivity, climate change effects and others.
Under the act, though Union government had set up many water tribunals like the Krishna Tribunal, the Narmada Tribunal, The Godavari Tribunal, the Cauvery Tribunal, The Ravi, Beas Tribunal etc.
River Boards Act, 1956
The board was formed to ensure proper and optimum utilization of the water resources of the inter-state rivers and
to monitor different schemes of irrigation, water supply, hydroelectricity power generation. However the nature of work of the board is advisory in nature and is meant only for the purpose to give advice and suggestions.
There are River Boards set up under separate legislation, but these were set up to implement a mutually agreed sharing agreement between States, e.g. Upper Yamuna River Board, Betwa River Board. River Boards cannot be set up to monitor the working and functioning of Tribunal awards.
Although judicial intervention is not allowed in this matter but over the years, several inter-State river water disputes have come up before the Supreme Court with reference to a variety of issues such as the competence of the Tribunal to deal with a request for an interim allocation, the non-implementation of an Order of the Tribunal and failures on the environmental and rehabilitation fronts.
The Cauvery cases are important in this regard because this paved the way for the involvement of the Supreme Court in inter-state water disputes , but without a constitutional mandate to do so the Supreme Court could not play an effective role. In 1990, One farmers association from Tamil Nadu moved to Supreme Court so that a tribunal can be formed on the river dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. On the order of Supreme Court a 3 member tribunal was formed in 1990 . The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) was constituted by the Government of India on 2nd June 1990. Tribunal passed an interim order in June 1991, and final award in 2007.