Tamil Nadu’s Wait Continues For Pennaiyar River Tribunal : Daily Current Affairs

Date: 18/03/2023

Relevance: GS-2: Issues and Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure, Governance and related issues; Inter-State River Water Dispute Resolution.

Key Phrases: Inter-State River Water Dispute Tribunal, Jal Shakti Ministry, Inter-State Water Dispute Act 1956, River Board Act 1956, Pennaiyar River, Supreme Court, The Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill 2019, Article 262 of Indian Constitution.


  • In December 2022, the Supreme Court had given a deadline of three months to the Centre to complete the process of constituting the Inter-State River Water Dispute Tribunal for Pennaiyar river to resolve the dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka
  • The time limit fixed by the Supreme Court for the constitution of an inter-State river water disputes tribunal for Pennaiyar river expired recently, Therefore, Tamil Nadu is waiting for the Centre’s next course of action.


  • In 2018, Tamil Nadu filed an original suit against Karnataka constructing check dams and diversionary structures on the river.
    • Tamil Nadu government's complaint is that Karnataka had built a reservoir across Markandeya Nadi, a tributary of Pennaiyar, diverting surplus water from Varathur tank, executed lift irrigation scheme at Ellamallappa Chetty tank to fill up Hoskote tank upstream, set up a pumping facility to take water from the main river at Bellahalli and set up a scheme to pump water from Thathanur village in Kolar district to supply to 160 tanks through underground pipeline in violation of the 1892 and 1933 agreements.
  • Then Tamil Nadu’s complaint was referred to the Negotiation Committee but there was no likelihood of settlement.
  • In 2019, Tamil Nadu formally requested the Union government to constitute a Tribunal for adjudication of disputes over the waters of the river.

Constitutional Provisions for River Water:

  • Entry 17 of the State List
    • Water is in the State List as 17th entry and hence, states can legislate with respect to rivers.
  • Entry 56 of the Union List
    • The Central government has the power to regulate and develop inter-state rivers and river valleys.
  • Article 262 of Indian Constitution
    • It also states that the Parliament may provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of the waters of, or in, any inter-State river or river valley.
    • As per Article 262, the Parliament has enacted the following:
      • Inter-State Water Dispute Act, 1956: Under this act, if a state government or governments approach the Centre for the constitution of a tribunal, the government may form a tribunal after trying to resolve the dispute through consultations. Currently total 5 tribunals are active in the country.
      • River Board Act, 1956: This empowered the union government to establish Boards for Interstate Rivers and river valleys in consultation with State Governments. Till date, no river board has been created.

Inter-State River Water Dispute Resolution Process:

  • The Parliament has enacted Inter-State River Water Disputes (ISRWD) Act, 1956 for adjudication of disputes relating to waters of inter-State rivers and river valley thereof.
  • When any request under the said Act is received from any State Government in respect of any water dispute on the inter- State rivers and the Central Government is of the opinion that the water dispute cannot be settled by negotiations, the Central Government constitutes a Water Disputes Tribunal for the adjudication of the water dispute.
  • Currently, 5 water disputes Tribunals are active in India as following-
    • Ravi & Beas Water Tribunal (1986): Rajasthan, Haryana & Punjab
    • Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal-II (2004): Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana & Karnataka
    • Vansadhara Water Disputes Tribunal (2010): Odisha & Andhra Pradesh
    • Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal (2010): Karnataka, Goa & Maharashtra
    • Mahanadi Water Disputes Tribunal (2018): Chhattisgarh & Odisha
  • In order to further streamline the adjudication of inter-State river water disputes, the Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is under consideration for amending the existing ISRWD Act, 1956.

The Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019

  • About
    • This bill was introduced by the Jal Shakti Ministry.
    • It seeks to replace the dispute resolution mechanism of ISRWD Act 1956.
  • Key Provisions
    • Disputes Resolution Committee:
      • Under the Bill, when a state puts in a request regarding any water dispute, the Central government will set up a Disputes Resolution Committee to resolve the dispute amicably.
      • It will comprise a Chairperson, and experts with at least 15 years of experience in relevant sectors, to be nominated by the central government.
      • It will also comprise one member from each state (at Joint Secretary level), who are party to the dispute, to be nominated by the concerned state government.
      • The DRC will seek to resolve the dispute through negotiations, within one year (extendable by six months), and submit its report to the central government.
      • If a dispute cannot be settled by the DRC, the central government will refer it to the Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal.
      • Such referral must be made within three months from the receipt of the report from the DRC.
    • Tribunal:
      • The central government will set up an Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal, for the adjudication of water disputes.
      • This Tribunal can have multiple benches.
      • All existing Tribunals will be dissolved, and the water disputes pending adjudication before such existing Tribunals will be transferred to the new Tribunal.
    • Composition of the Tribunal:
      • The Tribunal will consist of a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, three judicial members, and three expert members.
      • They will be appointed by the central government on the recommendation of a Selection Committee.
      • Each Tribunal Bench will consist of a Chairperson or Vice-Chairperson, a judicial member, and an expert member.
      • The central government may also appoint two experts serving in the Central Water Engineering Service as assessors to advise the Bench in its proceedings.
      • The assessor should not be from the state which is a party to the dispute.
    • Time Lines:
      • Under the Bill, the proposed Tribunal must give its decision on the dispute within two years, which may be extended by another year.
    • Decision of the Tribunal:
      • The bill adds that the decision of the Bench of the Tribunal will be final and binding on the parties involved in the dispute.
      • The Act provided that the central government may make a scheme to give effect to the decision of the Tribunal. The Bill is making it mandatory for the central government to make such a scheme.
    • Data bank:
      • The Bill provides that the central government will appoint or authorise an agency to maintain such a data bank.


  • Constitution of a single tribunal with different benches along with fixation of strict timelines for adjudication will result in expeditious resolution of disputes relating to inter-state rivers.

Source: The Hindu

Mains Question:

Q. Discuss the key provisions of The Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019. How it will be helpful for a speedy dispute resolution process. (250 Words).