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Working Provisions of Inter-State River-Water Disputes in India


Rivers are located in all the twenty-nine states in India. Many river valleys are sharing between the States of India. The main problem that arises here is the title to one particular State of flowing of rivers in-between two states. The Constituent assembly members forecasted the disputes on river sources and restricted the powers of State Government on title-ship of river-waters which flows between two States. Thus the constitution grants complete legislative functions to the Parliament and no state can hold the legislative functions exceeding its boundary.

Legislative Relations:

To make clear with the powers confers on the Union and State governments. The Constitution makers inserted three lists namely; the Union list which confers the powers of the Union Government, the State list confers the powers of State Government and the Concurrent list which clears the dominant power of Union over State government.

Union List:

The entry 56 of the Union list directs the Union (Central) Government to regulate and develop the inter-State water resources. The river valley which flows or share between two States totally belongs to those two States. Such an inter-State river does not belong to only one State. If any act done against by a State government leads to a dispute with another State. The parliament must enact a statutory law to regulate such disputes without any disruption to the public interest. It is also cleared that made laws without official notification by parliament does not affect the authority of State government to make laws under entry 17 of the State list.

State List:

The State has the authority to enact laws on river resources since the water also comes under the State subject in entry 17 of the State List. Entry 17 of the State list deals with all water resources including all water supplies, drainage, embankment, water storage, irrigation, and canals. But the State is not allowed to declare any law on rivers that do not come under its boundaries. And can make laws regarding inter-state water sources with subject to Parliamentary legislation under entry 54 of the Union List.

Adjudication of Disputes:

The Constituent assembly enacted a provision for settling those disputes among the sharing of rivers. Article 262 was introduced in the constitution of India, 1950. Article 262 consists of two clauses that deal with disputes relating to waters.

“Article 262(1) empowers Parliament to provide by law for 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”. This clause addresses the law-making authorization on Parliament to make laws that prescribe the procedures for adjudication of conflicts arises among the use or distribution or control of waters of any inter-State river sources. Thus the Parliament can direct a tribunal to dissolve such disputes even the Supreme Court does not have any jurisdiction to interpret or bar the decision made by tribunals.

“Article 262(2) confers Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, Parliament may by law provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint as is referred to in clause”. This clause was substituted by the Constitution in the 7th Amendment Act, 1956 and came into force on November 1, 1956. The law-making body i.e. Parliament can also provide that despite anything mentioned in this Constitution, the Courts whether the Supreme Court or any other court shall extend its jurisdiction with regard to any complaint or dispute. Article 131 gives absolute jurisdiction to the Supreme Court to make decisions in the disputes arouse among two States. But Article 262 was an exception made by the parliament from the scope and extension of the Supreme Court under Article 131.

Statutory Acts:

According to the provisions mentioned in this Article 262, the Parliament enacted two acts namely,

1. River Board Act, 1956 - to regulate and develop the existing inter-state water sources and

2. Inter-State Water Dispute Act, 1956 – to resolve the disputes arouse among the respective States.

River Board Act, 1956:

The River Board Act, 1956 was implemented by Parliament under entry 65 of the Union list. The purpose of this act is to regulate inter-State water resources. Through this, the existing rivers are maintained and developed for better use of the States concerned. This River Board Act aims to give recommendations to the Union Government through schemes or policies to prevent and develop the river valleys and to protect the cause of disputes from any exposures. And it is to be noted that so far no river-board was created under this Act.

Inter-State Water Dispute Act, 1956:

The Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956 was enacted under Article 262 to settle all disputes regarding the use or distribution or control of inter-State water sources. The particular State Government must request the Union to direct the tribunal in settlement of disputes with another State. The Union government at first shall try to resolve the dispute through negotiation. Further, the Union came to an opinion that these disputes could be only solved by tribunals and not by the terms of negotiations. Thus the Union has to set up a tribunal to resolve the disputes between the concerned States. The tribunal board should consist of a Chairman and two members proposed by the Chief Justice of India and the other two Judges of the Supreme Court or High Court. The decision made or formula given by the tribunal is considered as final. The Supreme Court has also no jurisdiction to question or challenge the decision but the working of the tribunal can be questioned before the Court of law.


Till now there are two amendments made to the Dispute Act in 2002 and 2017.

· The amendment bill of 2002 was made because of a remarkable delay in the formation and award given by the tribunal. Because, of such delay, the State Governments reinforce their claims before the tribunal by constructing dams in their boundaries to make some dominant restrictions to stop the share of the river. For this, the amendment act includes provisions like tribunal should be formed within a year of a request made by the State Government. The tribunal should also give its formula or decision within 3 years of the formation in certain cases it can be extended to 2 years. Thus the decision should be given within a maximum of 5years. If the made decision was not executed the reasons for non-execution should be pleaded within 3 months of such a decision. The amendment bill of 2017was made the working of settlement between states faster. Thus, the Union will set up a special Committee named as Dispute Resolution Committee consists of a specialist in all fields regarding solving of river disputes within one year. If the failure of the dissolution of the conflict, then the respective party can approach the Union Government to set up a tribunal.

No. of Tribunals in India:

The Water Disputes Tribunals constituted in India as stated in the report of the Department of Water Resources Ministry are as follows:

1) Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal formed regarding disputes between the states of Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh Odisha, Karnataka, and Maharashtra. This tribunal was constituted in April 1969.

2) Vansadhara Water Disputes Tribunal sharing disputes between states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. It was constituted in the year of 2010, February.

3) Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal – I constituted in April 1969, with disputes between the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra.

4) Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal – II constituted in the year of April 2004 concerning disputes between the states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra.

5) Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal formed regarding disputes sharing between the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. This tribunal was constituted in October 1969.

6) Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal constituted in June 1990 sharing disputes between the states of Karnataka, Kerala, Pondicherry, and Tamil Nadu.

7) Mahanadi Water Disputes Tribunal was formed in March 2018 regarding disputes between the states of Odisha and Chhattisgarh.

8) Ravi & Beas Water Tribunal constituted in April 1986 with disputes between the states of Rajasthan, Haryana, and Punjab.

9) Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal was formed in November 2010 concerning disputes between the states of Goa, Maharashtra, and Karnataka.

No. of Active Tribunals:

The numbers of present or active tribunals in India are as follows:

1) Vansadhara Water Disputes Tribunal.

2) Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal II.

3) Ravi & Beas Water Tribunal.

4) Mahanadi Water Disputes Tribunal.

5) Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal between the states of Goa, Maharashtra, and Karnataka.


As a united nation, every state of India should strive towards achieving commonness. Thus all the natural resources should be available to everyone. There should be healthy competition between the States without selfishness. Water is the most essential need for a human-living it must be saved and available to all without any tough-restriction.


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