It has been reported that Mr. Justice Vikramjit Sen of the Supreme Court of India has taken a highly sympathetic view of Telangana Government’s petition requesting reopening of the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal II award contending that its interests were notrepresented before the Tribunal that gave the award in 2010. While one cannot but commend Justice Sen for his sense of equitability, reopening an award finalized two years ago and sealed till 2050 is fraught with certain issues.
First, as the Karnataka counsel, Fali Nariman opined it is not correct to say that Telangana’s interests were not represented as it was part of undivided Andhra Pradesh. Second, entertaining Telangna’s plea amounts to indicting, if indirectly, the undivided Government of Andhra Pradesh by endorsing Telangana’s dubious argument that it was squarely neglected in the united state. After all, it is the duty of the elected legislators from the region to see that its interests are taken up in earnest. That is, it is the third point, taking up Telangana’s plea amounts to absolving the region’s representatives of their indifference, if not irresponsibility, towards their own problems.
Finally, Justice Sen would beestablishing a bad precedent of reopening old decisions and agreements whenever a serious new development takes place. Thus, if a separate Vidarbha state is formed in the next 5 years or in any case before 2050, will the Supreme Court be inclined to reopen the award once again in the name of hearing Vidarbha’s representation?
The only justification for a Court of law could have for reopening the KWDT-II award is if the award itself is bad in law or found to be non-equitable. To ascertain this, the Court should rather have to summon an expert opinion and cross-check the tribunal’s award. In this, the Court may find justification in the undivided Andhra Pradesh’s formally ventilated dissatisfaction with the award. On the contrary, if such an inquiry reveals KWDT-II award to be unexceptionable, the Supreme Court has the option (and responsibility) to deal with the issue at ‘local’ level. It should then view the problem as the one between Telangana and the new Andhra Pradesh states.
In such an event the Court should review the present water sharing arrangement between the two states against not only the backdrop of Andhra Pradesh State Reorganization Act 2014, but also in view of the policies drawn up by the undivided state since 1956. It is necessary not only to keep in mind that Telangana is an upper riparian state but also it is a rains-starved state necessitating expensive lift-irrigation systems of irrigation.
It should be kept in mind that for this reason a tacit policy slant was embedded that envisaged developing the rain-starved Telangana industrially and fertile Krishana-Godavari delta agriculturally. The result is to-day when a separate Telangana state was carved out, the state capital Hyderabad was not only a buzzing world-class city with the undivided state’s industrial development concentrated around it. That this city sustains the new state’s economy substantially is given by the fact that the Telangana state is a surplus state today where as the residual Andhra Pradesh is at the mercy of central borrowings to tide over its budgetary deficit.
It is hoped that Justice Vikramjit Sen would understand that reopening an award would just require a few hearings and a stroke of pen. In contrast, it takes years together to finalize a new award by the tribunal. And that it would be a travesty of justice if in the name ofequitability and sympathy a party is allowed to have the cake and eat it too.
By: Dr Codadu Pratap