Clarify stance on Krishna water tribunal, apex court tells government

October 17th, 2008 - 11:44 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 17 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday expressed surprise over the changing stance of the government on giving sufficient time to a tribunal to resolve a riparian row among Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.Expressing surprise over the government’s changing stance, a bench of Justice B.N. Agrawal and Justice G.S. Singhvi asked it to clarify its stand in its reply to a lawsuit by the Karnataka government, seeking sufficient time for the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal.

The bench asked the government to file its reply within four weeks.

The Karnataka government had earlier moved the apex court apprehending that the tribunal, constituted in 2004, may not be able to complete its task of probing the inter-state river water dispute within its stipulated five-year term.

Karnataka had pointed out to the court that a river water tribunal is initially formed for a period of three years, and in case it is not able to complete its task within that period it is entitled to a maximum of four extensions of its tenure for six months each.

The state government said that despite being constituted in 2004, the tribunal remained non-functional for at least one and a half years due to lack of proper infrastructure and secretarial support.

Finally when it began working, its three-year tenure expired in 2007. The government gave it two extensions, first in 2007 and then early this year.

Karnataka had pointed out that the tribunal is yet to complete a major chunk of its work of recording the voluminous evidence of the three states. It feared that it might not be able to complete its task by 2009, when it completes five years.

The state government has pleaded to the court that the five year term should be counted from when it actually began its work rather than when it was formed.

On the last hearing, Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam had appreciated Karnataka’s apprehension and had said that he would bring it to the notice of the central government.

But on Friday, another Additional Solicitor General Amrendra Saran, appearing for the central government, remained non-committal on Karnataka’s demand and said the government would look into the matter as and when its term expires.

This led the bench to ask the central government to clarify its stand on the issue.

The Krishna flows from the Western Ghats in Maharashtra and passes through Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh before moving into the Bay of Bengal.

The Krishna basin has a total area of 258,948 sq km of which 26.81 percent lies in Maharashtra, 43.74 in Karnataka and 29.45 in Andhra Pradesh.

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