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SC notice on tribunal set up

New Delhi, Oct. 28: The Supreme Court has issued notices to the Centre on a petition filed by the Orissa government seeking a direction to the Union government to provide adequate infrastructure to the newly-created Vansdhara Tribunal.

The first tribunal meet, which was scheduled before November 23, could not take place due to lack of space from where it could function, senior counsel Raju Ramachandran told a two-judge bench. Ramachandran was assisted by Orissa standing counsel R.S. Jena.

The bench, comprising Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice Cyriac Joseph, yesterday issued notice returnable within three weeks.

The Supreme Court had directed the central government on February 6, 2009 to set up a tribunal under former SC judge B.N. Aggarwal to adjudicate the dispute between Andhra Pradesh and Orissa over sharing waters of the Vansadhara river.

The tribunal is also expected to adjudicate on dispute between the two states relating to the construction of a side channel weir and flood flow canal project at Katragada on the Vansadhara by AP.

Moreover, the apex court said that once the tribunal was constituted both sides could seek interim orders from it.

In July 28, 2009, the Centre sought an extension of six months to constitute a tribunal. Time was extended till February this year.

On February 24, 2010, the Centre constituted the tribunal and referred the dispute to it.

On April 6, Orissa nominated its representatives to the tribunal and a month later sought interim orders to restrain AP from “constructing on the riverbed and cutting the right bank of the river for construction of side weir for diversion of water into the flood flow channel”.

However, Orissa claimed in its petition that the tribunal was “unable to hold its sittings” as it did not have a place to function. “…in absence of necessary infrastructure it is not clear how an effective hearing can commence. As a result of such inaction on the part of the Union, Orissa has been exposed to the jeopardy.”

The Orissa petition expressed apprehension that in the interim AP may act “prejudicial” to its interest and alter or change the prevailing status quo with regard to the side channel weir and flood flow canal at Katragada.

If AP were to do that Orissa would suffer “irreparable and irreversible” injury.

Huge areas on the left bank of the river, dependent on irrigation on it, would be affected, Orissa contended.

Orissa cited an earlier example in which the Centre had renovated and provided bungalows to judges constituting the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal to press for its demand.

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Bharat Matrimonial 21012010