NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today told the Centre that there was "no valid purpose" in resisting the setting up of a tribunal to deal with the dispute between Odisha and Chhattisgarh over the Mahanadi river water-sharing dispute.
The court said it was "disappointed" that the Centre had not yet issued a notification on the constitution of a tribunal to deal with the ongoing issue despite having submitted before the top court in October that a decision would be taken in this regard by November 19.
However, the Centre told a bench comprising Justices S A Bobde and L Nageswara Rao that Odisha had not participated in the negotiations on the issue.
"Are you (Centre) saying if they (Odisha) do not come for negotiations, a tribunal cannot be constituted," the bench asked.
Odisha has been opposing Chhattisgarh's plans to build 13 barrages and seven pick up weirs (small dams) across Mahanadi river, in a plan to extract more water. Odisha has said this would adversely affect the interests of its farmers.
Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, representing the Centre, referred to a 1983 agreement between Madhya Pradesh and Odisha and said there was a mechanism to deal with the issue.
"We are disappointed at this. We were told that you will issue a notification," the bench said, adding "you had made a statement that a notification will be issued for constitution of a tribunal. You had made this statement before the court." When the Centre told the court that Odisha was not coming forward for negotiation in the matter, the bench observed, "failure of negotiation has nothing to do with it. Odisha is saying they do not want to negotiate. If they are not coming forward, it is failure of negotiation".
Nadkarni told the bench that they had already filed a written statement before the court in the matter and a mechanism already existed.
The counsel representing Odisha told the court that no negotiation could be done in the matter and a tribunal should be constituted.
Chhattisgarh's counsel countered the submissions of Odisha and said they do not want a tribunal in the matter and, as per the 1983 agreement, a mechanism was already there which should be exercised.
"We do not see any valid purpose in you (Centre) resisting the appointment of tribunal," the bench told the Centre.
However, when the Centre said it would argue the matter, the bench posted the case for hearing on January 16.
In its written statement before the court, the Centre has said that the ongoing dispute should be sorted out through negotiations between the concerned parties.
The Centre has also said they were in the process of finalising a bill to constitute a composite tribunal which would deal with all the inter-state river water disputes in the country.
The Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill 2017 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Uma Bharti on March 14 this year.
The Bill proposes to set up an Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal, for adjudication of water disputes, if a dispute is not resolved through the Disputes Resolution Committee.
The Odisha government had moved the court in December last year seeking an order asking Chhattisgarh to stop its construction work in projects on the upstream of Mahanadi.