Govt. scraps 2014 order on inter-State water disputes

Modified guidelines issued following a HC ruling

The Water Resources Department has scrapped a 2014 order which sought to prevent the release of information regarding inter-State water disputes under the Right to Information Act.

The department has now issued modified guidelines on the matter following a High Court ruling in 2019 which frowned upon the attempt to prevent flow of information under RTI.

Through a July 22, 2014, order, the department had decided not to give out information on inter-State water issues under RTI on the ground that it could adversely impact the State’s interests, given the disputes with neighbouring States.

According to the order, such information was to be withheld until the cases pending in the Supreme Court and other courts were settled.

However, the High Court, in a June 25, 2019, ruling observed that the department’s decision cannot be allowed to influence state information officers/appellate authorities. These officers should be governed exclusively by the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005, the court noted.

In the light of the court ruling, the Chief Engineer (Inter State Water) of the Irrigation Department had sought suitable directions from the government.

In an October 1 order, the State government cancelled the 2014 order and noted that information officers should handle queries on inter-State water issues as per the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005.

The Chief Ministers of Kerala and Tamil Nadu had met on September 25, 2019, to sort out issues related to inter-State water sharing and the revision of the Parambikulam-Aliyar Project agreement. Subsequently, the two States had formed joint committees to carry forward the discussions.

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