Answered: Can setting up a permanent tribunal (PT) solve the problem of better resolution of the inter-state water disputes? Analyze critically.

Cabinet has recently approved setting up a permanent tribunal (PT) by amending Interstate (River) Water Disputes Act 1956 (IWRDA) for resolution of inter-state water disputes by subsuming and replacing all the existing tribunals to provide a permanent avenue for resolving inter-state water disputes, is also in consonance with Article-262 of the constitution. It’s effectiveness in reducing delay in settling disputes is expected due to:

  • Speedy resolution: Adjudication by PT within 3 years would lead to faster disposal of cases.
  • Constitution of expert agency: Collection of relevant data through expert agency would provide more objective, reliable and impartial approach.
  • Setting up of Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC): This out of court settlement mechanism which mediates before disputes are referred to benches for adjudicationis likely to reduce the number of disputes before the tribunal.
  • More tooth to the decision: Awards given by the PT would be notified immediately unlike earlier when Centre notified the awards causing delay in implementation.

But with inter-state water disputes being highly politicized and instances in the past where states have defied SC orders, challenges lie ahead:


  • Abet states approaching the SC:  As the award given by tribunal can be challenged in SC it might lead to extended litigation and delays.
  • The effectiveness of legal adjudication is defeated by the very nature of disputes being trans-boundary conflicts; nexus between water politics and democratic politics.
  • Though DRC is a means of mediation challenge is to design proactive and innovative institutional practices and processes.
  • Just as they have done earlier, it is not clear about what will happen if disputing parties don’t comply with the award.

However, steps taken to set up a permanent tribunal would further cooperative federalism. If reforming the larger ecosystem of policies and institutions related to inter-state water disputes is done it would be a game changer.


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