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Justice Khanwilkar To Head Mahanadi Water Disputes Tribunal

The Centre has notified constitution of the “Mahanandi Water Disputes Tribunal”, in furtherance of the Supreme Court order directing it to constitute the same to resolve the long-standing dispute between Odisha and Chhattisgarh over the sharing of water from Mahanandi river.

A Bench comprising Justice S.A. Bobde and Justice L. Nageswara Rao had, in January this year, directed constitution of the Tribunal under Section 4(1) of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956, which mandates nomination of the chairman and members of the tribunal by the Chief Justice of India from among the judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts.

The Tribunal will be head-quartered at New Delhi and will comprise of:

  1. Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Supreme Court Judge (Chairman)
  2. Justice Ravi Ranjan, Patna High Court Judge
  3. Justice Indermeet Kaur Kochhar, Delhi High Court Judge

The dispute arose between the lower riparian state of Odisha and upper riparian state of Chhattisgarh, with the former claiming that Chhattisgarh government has been constructing dams in the upper reaches of the Mahanadi, depriving its farmers who are heavily dependent on the rivers waters. Chhattisgarh, on the other hand, has been resisting the setting up of a tribunal, arguing that the water sharing agreement, which Odisha has been relying on, was with the erstwhile Madhya Pradesh government, before the State was carved out in 2000.

The State of Odisha had then moved the Supreme Court, after the failure of the inter-state meeting called by the then Union Minister for Water Resources, Uma Bharati in October, 2016.

It had sought grant of an injunction restraining Chhattisgarh from continuing with the construction and operation of the six ongoing industrial barrages, namely Samoda, Seorinarayan, Basantpur, Mirouni, Saradiha and Kalma, pending constitution of the tribunal. It had also sought an injunction restraining Chhattisgarh from using water in excess of its equitable share.

The Supreme Court had then favored constitution of a tribunal, ruling, “It is clear that the statement made by the Minister is with reference to this very dispute and the Ministry has concluded that the disputes cannot be resolved by negotiations. We, therefore, have no hesitation in directing that the Central Government shall issue appropriate notification in the Official Gazette and constitute a Water Disputes Tribunal for adjudication of the water dispute between the parties herein within a period of one month from today.”

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