Sunday, September 19, 2021

CJI’s worthy solution to Water Dispute

Says it better to resolve the problem through mediation

CJI Ramana says he belongs to both the Telugu States

If AP insists on adjudication, he would transfer the case to some other bench

Part I

It is quite appropriate to suggest a mediation between two riparian states to resolve the issues of shares in inter-state rivers like Krishna & Godavari, as suggested by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana.  In a water dispute case filed by Andhra Pradesh against Telangana, the CJI made appropriate remarks and refused to adjudicate it saying he belonged to two Telugu states. Two states should take the opportunity to settle their water disputes through mediation instead of handing over the resources and rivers to Centre or fighting each other. Best of course would be to negotiate sincerely in direct meetings with the other state, through cordial communication. The hostilities rise with the abuse of language by the ministers or party leaders on either side. The political leaders think they can grab vote bank by raking up emotions unnecessarily. The Telangana has already set an example of successful settlement with Maharashtra through direct negotiation. Same gesture is necessary with Andhra Pradesh also. If they cannot chalk out the solution, then only they should go for mediation of national experts.

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CJI was advising it in the background of the Assam-Mizoram border flare-up, that the people of the two southern States were “brothers” and should not even “dream” of doing harm to each other. Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, representing Andhra Pradesh referred to violence between Assam and Manipur. When Dave began with “Looking at what happened in the northeast…” CJI interjected and said “Do not think like that even in your dreams… We are all brothers”. He also said he hailed from both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. He could not adjudicate the case legally. While saying so he gave some options. “If you want to settle the issue through mediation, I will send it for mediation. On the other hand, if you want the case to be adjudicated or to be heard legally, I will list it before another Bench,” Chief Justice Ramana addressed the parties. It was appreciated as ‘eminently fair’. 

River Krishna flows through Telangana and Andhra Praesh before going into the sea

AP’s allegations

The case concerned Andhra Pradesh’s petition accusing Telangana of depriving its people of their legitimate share of water for drinking and irrigation. Interestingly this exactly is the allegation of Telangana against Andhra Pradesh who went first to SC.

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Andhra Pradesh said Telangana was refusing to follow decisions taken on river water management in the Apex Council constituted under the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act of 2014. It had also ignored the directions of Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) constituted under the 2014 Act and the Central government.

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“Fundamental rights, including right to life of its citizens, are being seriously impaired and infringed on account of unconstitutional, illegal and unjust acts on part of State of Telangana and its officials, resulting in the citizens of the State of Andhra Pradesh being deprived of their legitimate share of water for drinking and irrigation purposes,” the petition said.

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The petition also blamed the Centre for not notifying the exact jurisdiction of the KRMB, which it did on July 15, and according to this, the jurisdiction means taking over two rivers. Thus the Senior advocate C.S. Vaidyanathan, for Telangana, said the issue had become infructuous.

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AP has filed petition after Telangana government issued an order of June 28, 2021, notifying that “to tap more hydel generation in the State, government has taken a decision to generate hydel power up to 100% installed capacity”. This order directed Telangana State Power Generation Corporation Limited (TSGENCO) to hence “generate the hydel power up to 100% installed capacity in the State.”

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“The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh in this regard has written to the Prime Minister on July 1 and July 7, seeking his urgent intervention in view of serious threat to right to life of tens of millions of citizens of Andhra Pradesh,” the petition has noted.

TS CM KCR and AP CM YS Jagan Mohan Reddy on the banks of River Krishna

After several years of inaction, the Centre woke up to take away the rivers. Instead of managing the dispute or behaving like an elderly person sitting at national, the centre is acting like a monkey which sat to settle dispute of cats over the bread.  Strangely the Union Government has stirred up this emotional issue.

Telangana CM’s stand

Reacting to these notifications Telangana CM said the Centre is taking anti-Telangana stand and AP is resorting to Dadagiri.  He said that he would take all measures to ensure irrigation to Nagarjuna Sagar Ayacut in Krishna Basin and will start 15 lift irrigation schemes from Kodad till Nagarjunsagar. He also reassured to fulfil his poll promise of bringing Godavari waters to Nalgonda by inter-linking Godavari and Krishna river basins.

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The water is the state’s subject. But Centre misinterpreted its common jurisdiction in Concurrent List and provisions of AP Reorganization Act 2014, which nowhere stated that Centre could take away the rivers. Even under general principles of sharing sovereignty between States and the Centre, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are entitled to autonomy in managing the water.  This federal principle is watered down as the Centre took over the Krishna and Godavari rivers from the Telugu riparian states.

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Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Author is Dean, Professor of law at Mahindra University at Hyderabad and former Central Information Commissioner. He published a number books in English and Telugu.

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