Article 262 of the Constitution provides for the adjudication of inter-state water disputes. It makes two provisions:
(i) Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution and control of waters of any inter-state river and river valley.
(ii) Parliament may also provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court is to exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint.
Under this provision, the Parliament has enacted two laws [the River Boards Act (1956) and the Inter-State Water Disputes Act (1956)]. The River Boards Act provides for the establishment of river boards for the regulation and development of inter-state river and river valleys. A river board is established by the Central government on the request of the state governments concerned to advise them.
The Inter-State Water Disputes Act empowers the Central government to set up an ad hoc tribunal for the adjudication of a dispute between two or more states in relation to the waters of an inter-state river or river valley. The decision of the tribunal would be final and binding on the parties to the dispute. Neither the Supreme Court nor any other court is to have jurisdiction in respect of any water dispute which may be referred to such a tribunal under this Act.
The need for an extra judicial machinery to settle inter-state water disputes is as follows: “The Supreme Court would indeed have jurisdiction to decide any dispute between states in connection with water supplies, if legal rights or interests are concerned; but the experience of most countries has shown that rules of law based upon the analogy of private proprietary interests in water do not afford a satisfactory basis for settling disputes between the states where the interests of the public at large in the proper use of water supplies are involved.