State spent Rs 6.02cr on Mahanadi case: RTI Odisha

State spent Rs 6.02cr on Mahanadi case: RTI Odisha

State spent Rs 6.02cr on Mahanadi case: RTI Odisha

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha government spent more than Rs 6.02 crore from the state exchequer to pay the lawyers contesting the contentious Mahanadi inter-state river water dispute in the Tribunal on behalf of the state and on government officials for their airfares to different places.

A response from the Water Resources Department to an RTI application filed by this correspondent revealed startling facts on the state funding for the case.

However, four years down the line and despite investment of Rs 6.02 crore, no major breakthrough has been achieved in the case.

In fact, the state even failed to get a stay from the Tribunal on the issue.

As per information available, the state government employed 14 lawyers, including former Attorney General of India and senior Supreme Court lawyer Mukul Rohatgi to present Odisha’s side before the Tribunal.

The lawyers’ panel also included noted advocates like Harish N Salve, former Solicitor General of India, and Mohan V Katarki.

The RTI query revealed that the state government paid Rs 4,44,84,832, including taxes, to various reputed lawyers and law firms of the country during the period between March 1, 2018 and January 31, 2021.

The RTI reply claimed that the state government paid Rs 1,14,50,000 only for the services rendered by senior advocate Rohtagi who appeared before the tribunal on behalf of the state thrice between 2018 and 2019.

Similarly, Rs 1,80, 90,000 was paid to another senior advocate Mohan V Kartaki who appeared before the tribunal for the state for ten times between 2018 and 2020.

Meanwhile, the Odisha government also paid Rs 41,73,664 to Sri Agarwal Law Associates, a New Delhi-based law firm, for the services rendered in the case.

Similarly, the state government also employed non-legal technical experts to study various aspects of the Mahanadi water dispute in order to assist the state government in preparing its representations and spent around Rs 1.59 crore on the visits of these officials and experts to New Delhi and other places between 2017 and 2021.

The expert committee included engineers like ME Haque, Suresh Chandra, RC Tripathy, GN Yoganarasingham, Ramesh Kumar Gupta, Arun Kumar Padhi, GC Sahoo and BP Das.

Interestingly, the government spent around Rs 87.93 lakh on the air travels of these officials alone. Odisha had been at loggerheads with neighbouring Chhattisgarh over the ‘illegal’ construction of several barrages and pick-up weirs upstream of Mahanadi river and had sought the intervention of the Supreme Court in the case.

Following the Supreme Court’s intervention, the Central government constituted Mahanadi Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal to settle the dispute between Odisha and Chhattisgarh over the sharing of Mahanadi waters, March 12, 2018.

However, the Tribunal has so far failed to address the concerns raised by Odisha. The state government appointed noted lawyers to present its side before the Tribunal but is yet to get the desired results. Source:orissapost

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