Legal Correspondent

Rejects Maharashtra stand on plea against Babli barrage

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday held maintainable Andhra Pradesh’s suit against Maharashtra challenging construction of the Babli barrage across the Godavari in Nanded district.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices Altamas Kabir and R.V. Raveendran rejected Maharashtra’s stand that only the Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal could adjudicate issues raised in the dispute. After hearing senior counsel K. Parasaran for Andhra Pradesh and senior counsel T.R. Andhyarujina for Maharashtra, the Bench directed that the main suit and connected petitions be listed for final hearing in the first week of August, when the issues already framed would be adjudicated.

Andhra Pradesh and the other petitioners, Madhu Yaski Goud and Nadpenna Baddam, alleged that Maharashtra was violating the tribunal award by illegally constructing the barrage. It had no right to undertake the construction of the barrage or any other irrigation project by encroaching on the reservoir waterspread area of the Pochampad dam project.

The barrage would affect people in six districts of Andhra Pradesh and 18 lakh acres would go dry, the suit said.

The issues to be decided by the court are: whether the issue in the suit is a ‘water dispute’ involving merely an interpretation of the 1975 agreement; whether the agreement has merged into and become an integral part of the tribunal award; whether Maharashtra’s action in proceeding with the construction of the barrage within the waterspread area of the Pachampad reservoir is contrary to the tribunal award; whether the award enables Maharashtra to construct the barrage or utilise water up to the Pochampad dam site; would the Babli barrage project enable Maharashtra to draw and utilise 65 tmcft from the storage of the Pochampad project and what relief are the parties entitled to?