THE BETWA RIVER BOARD ACT, 1976

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The Betwa River Board Act, 1976 came into force on the October 14, 1976. The Act is spread over a total of Five chapters and Twenty Four sections. The act is further supplemented by the Betwa River Board Rules and the Betwa River Board Regulations. The main objective behind the enactment of the legislation was to provide for the establishment of the Betwa River Board and aid the creation of the reservoir at Rajghat. The enactment further provides that the reservoir shall be created by the building of a Dam on the Betwa River in Rajghat. Thus the agreement envisages the conception of a reservoir on behalf of the two governments. The Act, due to its very nature, is also commonly referred to as the interstate agreement entered into between the Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh State Governments.

Section 4 of the Act deals with the nature of the board to be constituted under the Act. The Act specifies that the Board shall be a body corporate having a common seal and further having the right to hold and acquire property. The Board shall be presided by the Union Minister in charge of irrigation and shall also further comprise of the Chief Ministers and the Ministers in charge of irrigation, finance and power of both the states.

The Act entrusts on the Central government the power to constitute an executive committee. The committee shall comprise of officers from both the Governments. The Central government shall further appoint, after consulting with the Governments of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, a chief engineer, financial adviser and a secretary to the Board. The Board shall also have the right to appoint any other officers or employees that it may deem fit and necessary. The act provides provisions for the institution of one or more Advisory Boards with the hopes of providing effective assistance to the Board and the Executive Committee.

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The Functions and Powers of the Board have been listed out in the 3rd Chapter of the act. The act imposes upon the Board the duty to conduct surveys and carry out investigations in the Betwa Inter-state river valley and the preparation of a scheme account for the structure of the dam and also ascertain the cost allocation between the State Governments of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. It further imposes a duty to sketch out the standards and mandatory features for the execution and preservation of the project, to construct a power-house and a common transporter for the purpose of irrigating the areas of both Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and to perform any other functions for discharging the functions enshrined in Section 10 of the Act. The act further voices for the establishment of Betwa River Board Fund, and also for the rule and regulation creating authority of the Central Government.

Chapter 5 of the enactment also specifies that in cases of any disputes between the board and any of the Governments shall be referred to the Central Government, whose decision shall be final. It further bars the institution of suits and any other legal proceedings against the Central Government, the Government of Madhya Pradesh or Uttar Pradesh, or the officers and other employees of the Board, for any acts done in good faith, or done in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

The Act has been amended twice. The initial amendment was in 1977 and was further amended in 1993. The Amendment act of 1977 while making an addition to Section 7 of the original Act states that the Central Government must make certain that no officers from the same state shall hold the position of Chief Engineer and the Secretary to the Board. It further has inserted within section 10 of the Act, which deals with the functions of the Board, the duty to construct the Rajghat dam.

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The Betwa River Board Amendment Bill, 1993 was passed by the Lok Sabha on 4th August, 1993. The Amendment Act in turn substitutes the words “Rajghat Reservoir” to “Rani Laxmi Bhai Sagar” in section 3 and section 12 of the original Act. It thus specifies that all references to Rajghat Reservoir in any prevailing laws or rules shall be construed as Rani Laxmi Bhai Sagar.