Cabinet nod for single tribunal to resolve inter-state water disputes

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Photo: PTI

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday (July 10) gave its nod to set up a single, permanent tribunal to adjudicate all inter-state river water disputes, subsuming existing nine, with an aim to resolve grievances of states in a speedy manner.

Briefing reporters on the decisions taken by the Cabinet, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said there are nine tribunals functioning at the moment. He said it has taken anything from “17 to 27 years to resolve disputes by these tribunals”.

Besides the new tribunal, the government has also proposed to float its benches by amending the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956 to look into disputes as and when required.

Unlike the Tribunal, the benches will cease to exist once the disputes are resolved. As per an earlier bill, a retired Supreme Court judge will head the tribunal. There will be benches formed as and when required. The benches though will be wound up once a dispute is resolve, sources said.

The 2017 bill could not get parliamentary nod. The tribunal will be mandated to deliver final award in two years, Javadekar said.

In order to give more teeth to the Tribunal, it is proposed that whenever it gives order, the verdict gets notified automatically, the sources said. As per the current provisions of the 1956 Act, a tribunal can be formed after a state government approaches the Union government with such a request and the Centre is convinced of the need to form the tribunal.

At present, there are nine Tribunals including those on Cauvery, Mahadayi, Ravi and Beas, Vansadhara and Krishna rivers.

Cabinet approves changes in POCSO Act

The Union Cabinet also approved amendments to the POCSO Act, which deals with crime against children, and included death penalty for sexual assault on minors, officials said.

The amendments in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act also provide for fines and imprisonment to curb child pornography. The changes are expected to discourage the trend of child sexual abuse by acting as a deterrent due to strong penal provisions incorporated in the Act, the government said.

“It intends to protect the interest of vulnerable children in times of distress and ensures their safety and dignity. The amendment is aimed to establish clarity regarding the aspects of child abuse and punishment thereof,” it said.

Nod for bill to ban unregulated deposit schemes

The Cabinet also approved Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill with an aim to tackle the menace of illicit deposit-taking activities in the country.

The bill will replace the Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Ordinance, 2019. The proposed legislation is likely to be introduced in Parliament during the ongoing session.

Talking to reporters after the Cabinet meeting, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said people are suffering due to chit fund scams. “The bill will help tackle the menace of illicit deposit taking activities in the country, which at present are exploiting regulatory gaps and lack of strict administrative measures to dupe poor and gullible people of their hard earned money,” an official release said.

The proposed legislation will have adequate provisions for punishment and disgorgement/repayment of deposits in cases where such schemes nonetheless manage to raise deposits illegally, it added. The banning of Unregulated Deposit Scheme Bill, 2018 was considered by the Lok Sabha in February and after discussion, the same was passed.

However, before the same could be considered and passed in the Rajya Sabha, the Rajya Sabha was adjourned sine die on the same day.