SC okays tribunal on Mahanadi row


New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ordered the Centre to issue a notification within a month to set up a tribunal on the Mahanadi river water dispute between Orissa and Chhattisgarh. The order comes as a jolt to the Union Government as it had been trying hard to prevent the setting up of a tribunal.
The final hearing on the matter came up before a two-judge SC bench Tuesday comprising Jinsssssssssssustice SA Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao.
In its final order the SC bench said, “It is clear that negotiations have failed. We therefore direct the Centre to issue an appropriate notice in the Gazette regarding the constitution of a tribunal within a month. Accordingly the original suit is returned to the plaintiff (Orissa) for referring the injunction to the concerned tribunal.”
The eighth and final hearing on the petition lasted 35 minutes before the SC bench pronounced its verdict. During the hearing the bench repeatedly asked the Union Government if they had come to a conclusion on whether the negotiations have failed or not.
During the arguments the Centre refrained from making comments on its conclusion on the subject and urged the Supreme Court to hold another tripartite meeting between the concerned CMs and the Union Government. The Orissa government opposed this.
The Chhattisgarh government also aired its views and said that it wanted to resolve the issue at the CMs’ level. They said that if the Orissa government could go for an amicable solution on Polavaram why not they take the same approach in this matter. Chhattisgarh also backed the stand of the Union Government which requested the court to let the Joint Control Board envisioned under the 1983 bilateral agreement between Orissa and undivided Madhya Pradesh to decide on the dispute.
The SC bench rejected the arguments made by the Union Government to decide the matter through the JCB. “The JCB was not meant to settle water disputes. It is not a mechanism to redress inter-state river water disputes,” the SC said.
The SC bench criticised the Chhattisgarh government. “You can’t defend the Centre unnecessarily. We do not want to hear you. We want to know from the Centre about its conclusion on the subject.”
The Orissa government told the SC that the Joint Control Board was meant for joint projects and that the projects in question are not joint in nature.
It also presented in court the reply of the Union Minister of Water Resources made in Parliament in which he accepted that negotiations had failed in this matter.
The court has now asked the states to present their problems before the tribunal once it is set up.
The Orissa government was represented in SC by former Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi and senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi.

Chief Minister welcomes SC order
Bhubaneswar: Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has welcomed the Supreme Court order on the Mahanadi water dispute. “Mahanadi is the lifeline of Orissa. We have been pleading with the Centre for setting up a tribunal to protect the interests of our state. Today our stand has been vindicated.” He said this verdict of the court will go a long way in protecting the interests of the people especially farmers. The CM also replied to Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari’s latest letter to him on the issue. He urged Gadkari to tell Chhattisgarh to stop of construction on the upper basin of Mahanadi. The Congress and the BJP also welcomed the SC decision.

Manish Kumar, OP

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