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Inter – State River Water Disputes Act 1956

Inter – State River Water Disputes Act 1956

Short Title and Extent

  • This Act may be called the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956.
  • It extends to the whole of India.


In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires

  • “Prescribed” means prescribed by rules made under this Act
  • “Tribunal” means a Water Disputes Tribunal constituted under section 4
  • Water dispute” means any dispute or difference between two or more State Governments with respect to:

Ø       The use, distribution or control of the waters of, or in, any interState river or river valley or

Ø       The interpretation of the terms of any agreement relating to the use,  distribution or control of such waters or the implementation of such agreement or

Ø       The levy of any water rate in contravention of the prohibition contained in section 7.

Complaints by State Governments as to water disputes

If it appears to the Government of any State that a water dispute with the Government of another State has arisen or is likely to arise by reason of the fact that the interests of the State, or of any of the inhabitants thereof, in the waters of an inter-State river or river valley have been, or are likely to be, affected prejudicially by-

(a)  any executive action or legislation taken or passed, or proposed to be taken or passed, by the other State; or

(b)  the failure of the other State or any authority therein to exercise any of their powers with respect to the use, distribution or control of such waters; or

(c)  the failure of the other State to implement the terms of any agreement relating to the use, distribution or control of such waters; the State Government may, in such form and manner as may be prescribed, request the Central Government to refer the water dispute to a Tribunal for adjudication.

Constitution of Tribunal

1. When any request under section 3 is received from   any  State Government in respect of any water dispute  and the  Central  Government is of opinion that the water  dispute cannot be   settled by negotiations, the Central  Government shall, within a period   not  exceeding one year from  the date of receipt of  such  request,   by notification  in  the Official Gazette,  constitute  a   Water    Disputes Tribunal   for the adjudication of the water dispute: Provided that any dispute settled by a Tribunal   before the commencement  of Inter-State  Water Disputes (Amendment)   Act, 2002 shall not be re-opened”


2. The Tribunal shall consist of a Chairman and two other members nominated in this behalf by the Chief Justice of India from among persons who at the time of such nomination are Judges of the Supreme Court or of a High Court.


3. The Central Government may, in consultation with the Tribunal, appoint two or more persons as assessors to  advise the  Tribunal   in the proceedings before it”.

Adjudication of water disputes

When a Tribunal has been constituted under section 4, the Central Government shall, subject to the prohibition contained in section 8, refer the water dispute and any matter appearing to be connected with, or relevant to, the water dispute to the Tribunal for adjudication.

The Tribunal shall investigate the matters referred to it and forward to the Central Government a report setting out the facts as found by it and giving its decision on the matters referred to it within a period of three years.

Provided that if the decision cannot be given for unavoidable reason, within a period of three years, the Central Government may extend the period for a further period not exceeding two years.


If, upon consideration of the decision of the Tribunal, the Central  Government or   any State  Government is  of opinion  that anything therein contained requires explanation or that guidance is  needed upon any point not originally referred to the Tribunal, the Central  Government or the State Government, as the case may be, within three  months from the date of the decision, again refer the matter to the Tribunal  for further consideration, and on such   reference, the  Tribunal may  forward to the  Central Government  a further report   within one   year  from  the date of such  reference giving such  explanation or guidance as it deems fit and in such  a case,  the  decision  of the  Tribunal  shall be  deemed  to  be modified accordingly:

Provided that the period of one year within which the Tribunal may forward its report to the Central Government may be  extended  by    the Central Government, for such further period as it  considers   necessary”.

If the members of the Tribunal differ in opinion on any point, the point shall be decided according to the opinion of the majority

Filling of Vacancies

If, for any reason a vacancy (other than a temporary absence) occurs in the office of the Chairman or any other member of a Tribunal, such vacancy shall be filled by a person to be nominated in this behalf by the Chief Justice of India in accordance with the provisions of sub-section (2) of section 4, and the investigation of the matter referred to the Tribunal may be continued by the Tribunal after the vacancy is filled and from the stage at which the vacancy occurred.

Publication of Decision of Tribunal

The Central Government shall publish the decision of the Tribunal in the Official Gazette and the decision shall be final and binding on the parties to the dispute and shall be given effect to by them. 

The decision of the Tribunal, after its publication in the Official Gazette by the Central Government under sub-section (1) , shall have the same force as an order or decree of the Supreme Court.

Power to make schemes to implement decisions of tribunal

1. Without prejudice to the provisions of section 6, the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, frame a scheme or schemes whereby provision may be made for all matters necessary to give effect to the decision of a Tribunal.  


2. A scheme framed under sub-section (1) may provide for- 

  • the establishment of any authority (whether described as such or as a committee or other body) for the implementation of the decision or directions of the Tribunal; 
  • the composition, jurisdiction, powers and functions of the authority, term of office and other conditions of service of, the procedure to be follow-by, and the manner of filling vacancies among, the members of the authority; 
  • the holding of a minimum number of meetings of the authority every year, the quorum for such meetings and the procedure thereat;
  • the appointment of any standing, ad hoc or other committees by the authority; 
  • the employment of a Secretary and other staff by the authority, the pay and allowances and other conditions of service of such staff; 
  • the constitution of a fund by the authority, the amounts that may be credited to such fund and the expenses to which the fund may be applied; 
  • the form and the manner in which accounts shall be kept by the authority; 
  • the submission of an annual report by the authority of its activities. 
  • the decisions of the authority which shall be subject to review; 
  • the constitution of a committee for making such review and the procedure to be followed by such committee; and 
  • any other matter which may be necessary or proper for the effective implementation of the decision or directions of the Tribunal.

3. In making provision in any scheme framed under sub-section (1)


Prohibition of levy of seigniorage, etc.

1)    No State Government shall, by reason only of the fact that any works for the conservation, regulation or utilisation of water resources of an inter-State river have been constructed within the limits of the State, impose, or authorise the imposition of, any seigniorage or additional rate or fee (by whatever name called) in respect of the use of such water by any other State or the inhabitants thereof.

2)    Any dispute or difference between two or more State Governments with respect to the levy of any water rate in contravention of the prohibition contained in sub-section (1) shall be deemed to be a water dispute. 


Bar of reference of certain disputes to tribunal

Notwithstanding anything contained in section 3 or section 5, no reference shall be made to a Tribunal of any dispute that may arise regarding any matter which may be referred to arbitration under the River Boards Act,  12[1956].

Powers of Tribunal

1. The Tribunal shall have the same powers as are vested in a civil court under    the   Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, in respect of the following matters, namely :-

summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person and examining him on oath;

requiring the discovery and production of documents and material objects (ba.) requisitioning of any data, as may be required by it.

issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses or for local investigation;

any other matter which may be prescribed.

2. The Tribunal may require any State Government to carry out, or permit to be carried out, such surveys and investigation as may be considered necessary for the adjudication of any water dispute pending before it.


3. A decision of the Tribunal may contain directions as to the Government by which the expenses of the Tribunal and any costs incurred by any State Government in appearing before the Tribunal are to be paid, and may fix the amount of any expenses or costs to be so paid, and so far as it relates to expenses or costs, may be enforced as if it were an order made by the Supreme Court.

4.[Subject to the provisions of this Act and any rules that may be made hereunder] the Tribunal may, by order, regulate its practice and procedure.


Maintenance of Data Bank and Information

1) The Central Government shall maintain a data bank and information system      at the national level for     each river basin which shall include data   regarding   water  resources, land, agriculture, and matters relating thereto, as the Central Government may prescribe from time to time. The State Government shall supply the data to the Central Government or to an agency appointed by the Central Government for the purpose, as and when required.

2) The Central Government shall have powers to verify the data supplied by the State Government, and appoint any person or   persons for the purpose and take such measures as  it may consider  necessary. The person or persons so appointed shall have  the powers to summon such records  and  information  from the  concerned State Government as are   considered   necessary to  discharge   their functions under this section.


Allowances or Fees for Chairman and other Members of Tribunal and Assessors

The Chairman and other members of a Tribunal] and the assessors shall be entitled to receive such remuneration, allowances or fees as may be prescribed.

Bar of jurisdiction of Supreme Court and other Courts

Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law, neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall have or exercise jurisdiction in respect of any water dispute which may be referred to a Tribunal under this Act.


Dissolution of Tribunal

The Central Government shall dissolve the Tribunal after it has forwarded its report and as soon as the Central Government is satisfied that no further reference to the Tribunal in the matter would be necessary.

Power to make rules

1) The Central Government, after consultation with the State Governments, may, by notification in the Official Gazette, make rules to carry out the purposes of this Act.

2) In particular, and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such rules may provide for all or any of the following matters, namely;-

  • the form and manner in which a complaint as to any water dispute may be made by any State Government
  • the matters in respect of which a Tribunal may be vested with the powers of a civil court
  • the procedure to be followed by a Tribunal under this Act


  • the remuneration, allowances or fees payable to 17 [the Chairman and other members] of a Tribunal and assessors
  • the terms and conditions of service of officers and assessors of the Tribunal


  • any other matter which has to be, or may be, prescribed.

3) Every rule made under this section shall be laid as soon as may be after it is made, before each House of Parliament while it is in session for a total period of thirty days, 20 [which may be comprised in one session or in two or more successive sessions, and if, before the expiry of the session immediately following the session or the successive sessions aforesaid] both Houses agree in making any modification in the rule or both Houses agree that the rule should not be made, the rule shall thereafter have effect only in such modified form or be of no effect, as the case may be; so, however, that any such modification or annulment shall be without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under that rule.




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