Interstate Water Dispute and Federalism: Governance of Interstate River Water in India

Haris Jamil, Praveen Kumar, Safdar Ismail, Ritabrata Roy


Interstate water dispute stands at the juncture of two fields of law: federalism under constitutional law, and water law. Because India is a federal democracy, and because rivers cross state boundaries, constructing efficient and equitable mechanisms for allocating river flows has long been an imperative legal and constitutional subject. The provisions of the Constitution relating to interstate water dispute give a good instance of co-operative federalism. In India water is primarily falls under State list, except in case of interstate rivers where the Central government can intervene. However, powers of the river board created under River Boards Act, 1956 only have advisory powers. There have been instances where States have refused to accept the decision of tribunals rendering the arbitration not binding, which makes the Indian water dispute settlement mechanisms further ambiguous and opaque. The paper examines the methods and policies used before independence to tackle the problem of interstate river water dispute. The paper highlights a need for quick movement to arbitration or adjudication in case of a conflict. The paper presents some recommendations, including the setting up of an independent federated institution to adjudicate and negotiate between the parties to the dispute within a fixed time period.

Keywords: Interstate, River, Constitution, Federalism, Adjudication

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ISSN (Paper)2224-5790 ISSN (Online)2225-0514

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