The panel headed by an 88-year-old retired Supreme Court judge to resolve the water dispute between Punjab and Haryana — the Eradi Commission — is being wound up 24 years after it was set up. The dispute remains unresolved.
The panel headed by Justice V. Balakrishna Eradi, has so far cost the country around Rs nine crore to the country. Its interim report, given in 1987, was not acceptable to Punjab and the final report is awaited since.
The guillotine is also coming down on two other river dispute panels — the Cauvery Tribunal set up in 1991 to resolve a dispute between Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, and the Krishna Tribunal set up in 2004 — to settle a river dispute between Andhra, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
The water resources ministry is asking all three to submit their final reports in the next six months, said a source, refusing to be identified.
The ministry wants to now fix tenures of such commission by writing it into the enabling law — the Inter State River Water Disputes Act, 1956.
The move is a part of the larger plan of the government to regulate the functioning of tribunals and commissions headed by retired judges, following the dud report given the Liberhan Commission, 17 years after the Babri Masjid was demolished.
T.K. Viswanathan, adviser to the law minister, confirmed the move. “We are in the final stages of drafting a new Bill likely to be introduced in the Budget Session for making a fresh law in this regard.”
The Bill seeks to fix the retirement age of former high court judges and technocrats, appointed to such panel, at 67. Former Supreme Court judges will retire from these bodies at 70 years.
It also provides for banning former Supreme Court and high court judges from being appointed to head or be members of various tribunals, and from providing costly legal advice in the form of arbitration in private disputes.
There are at least 40 tribunals and appellate authorities set up under various Acts, by the Centre for settling disputes related to policy matters and employees’ rights, concerning various ministries.