The Northern India Canal and Drainage Act, 1873

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The Northern India Canal and Drainage Act, 1873 (Act no. 8 of 1873) dated 11th February, 1873 is being an Act of Central Government, enacted for regulating irrigation, navigation and drainage in the area of Northern India. The Act under its first part covers the preliminary provisions, wherein the Act was short titled as ‘The Northern India Canal and Drainage Act, 1873’. Moreover, the extension of this Act was originally, given over the state of Uttar Pradesh, the territories comprising the State of Punjab and Delhi soon before 1st November, 1956. Similarly, the provisions of the Act should apply to the lands free from revenue, either permanently or temporarily settled. The interpretation of the various terms, used under the different provisions of the Act, is given under ‘Interpretation clause’ under Section 3 of the Act. The State Government under Section 4 of the Act, is empowered to declare the officers and local authority from whom the powers and obligations prescribed under the provisions of this Act, required to be exercised or performed.

Water utilization or supply for public purposes and interest is provided under this Act, and especially under Part II and section 5, wherein the State Government is required to apply or use the water of any river, stream flowing in natural channel, etc. for the purposes of existing or projected canal or otherwise, if such Government deems that expedient. The Canal Officer subjected to the order of State Government, is expected to act in furtherance of provisions of section 6 of the Act, for the same purposes of application or use of concerned water. On such notification by the State Government for application of aforesaid water, the concerned Collector is required to cause a notice to be given at convenient places, soon possible. And under such notice the State Government’s intention to apply or use aforesaid water along with invitation of claims for compensation should also be provided for public information. However, section 8 provides for list of matters where compensation is not required to be paid and the period of limitation is of one year from the day on which cause of action was arose, but with the provision of condo-nation of delay. Subsequent provisions are provided for procedural aspect in which the claims for compensation and amount thereof have to be determined.

So far as construction and maintenance of works is concerned, the Part III of the Act makes provisions, the Section 14 whereof, empowers the Canal-Officer or persons acting authorized under order of such Officer to enter the lands attached to canal or otherwise for conducting surveys, etc. works thereon for enquiring canal under the charge of said Officer. Even such officer or such person authorized under such Officer, can cut down or clear the part of any crop, fence or etc. existed over such land. Similarly, such officers or such aforementioned person, should also have power to inspect and also to regulate the Water supply. Similar power is also given for entering upon such lands to repair for preventing accidents.

Part IV of the Act is also important as it is providing provisions as to the supply of water. The provision of Section 31 says that if there is a written contract for supply of canal-water, as to rates and conditions of such supply, then such contract should be treated as mandatory for governing such supply, however, in the absence of such contract, the supply is to governed by rules framed by State Government. The next provision says that, such conditions provided either in contract or rules, should be similar and consistent to that which are provided under this provision. Similarly, Part V of the Act deals with several liabilities concerning with such use of water, charges, etc. under different provisions under this Part.

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Moreover, next part of the Act is important, wherein section 49 says that when any vessel enters into any canal as against the rules or if such vessel is hazard to the canal or otherwise, such vessels can be removed and detained by Officer being Divisional Canal-Officer and any person being owner of such vessels should be responsible to pay damages to any damage caused by such vessels to the canal. Similarly, the provisions for any failure relating to non-payment of charges, fine, etc. and recovery provisions are given under subsequent provisions.

Provisions as to drainage management is given under next part, where section 55 of the Act is important, concerning power of the State Government to prohibit the formation of any obstruction of river, stream or drainage-channel, or if formed then to remove or modify such obstruction, if such Government satisfied to the effect that such obstruction will injure the land or is hazard to the public health or convenience. Similarly, section 57 of the Act, says that, for the benefit and improvement of any lands and for the proper cultivation or irrigation of such land, the State Government is of opinion that the drainage works are required, then the State Government can cause a scheme, etc. for such drainage works to be drawn up and published. The next chapter deals with engagement of labourer for canals and drainage. Part IX speaks of jurisdiction of civil Court in respect of claims against the State Government relating to any matters.

Section 70 under another chapter of the Act deals with penal provisions, wherein several offences are described and also the punishments in respect to such offences are given under same provision and similarly, such offenders under this Act, can also be charged with under other provisions of any other laws. And the last Part under this Act deals with most important power of the State Government to make rules for carrying out the purpose of this Act. Such rules are named under this Part as subsidiary rules and also such rules to provide for matters enumerated under clauses of section 75 of the Act.

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by Faim Khalilkhan Pathan.