The Supreme Court Friday dismissed the Punjab government’s application seeking to restrain Haryana from undertaking the construction of a 3.8-km long wall on the left bank of Hansi-Butana canal along the Ghaggar river embankment.
A bench of Justice J.M. Panchal and Justice H.L. Gokhale, while dismissing Punjab’s application, said: “It is rightly pointed out by the state of Haryana that if the relief, as prayed for, is granted to the state of Punjab, it is state of Haryana which will suffer greater loss and irreparable injury.”
“It cannot as well be denied that state of Haryana has the right to carry out the necessary work in its territory and also the duty to its citizens,” the judgment read.
Speaking for the bench, Justice Panchal said: “Hence, in view of the larger damage, which was caused in Haryana in the year 2010, and which is likely to be caused in Haryana, if the bandh is not properly repaired as undertaken, the balance of convenience is in favour of the defendant-state of Haryana.”
The dispute is over a ‘toe-wall’, described as a low wall constructed at the bottom of an embankment to prevent slippage or spreading of the soil.
The Haryana government had been maintaining that the toe-wall was needed to save agricultural land and several villages from seasonal flooding in the Ghaggar river.
Punjab has been objecting to the wall, saying its construction will lead to flooding in its area, particularly in Patiala. The Punjab government had filed the plea with the apex court in June this year, seeking its intervention and stopping Haryana from constructing the wall.
Both Punjab and Haryana have been involved in a bitter political war over water sharing in the last few years. Punjab has also objected to the construction of the Hansi-Butana canal by Haryana.
It refused to provide extra water to Haryana for this canal which is supposed to carry water to parched areas in south Haryana.
Former chief minister and Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh blamed the Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state for its failure to protect Punjab’s interests in the Supreme Court on the issue of construction of the concrete wall by Haryana.
“The state messed up the matter from Day 1 by adopting a wrong course apparently with an intent to exploit the issue for political gains,” Amarinder Singh said.
With assembly polls scheduled in Punjab February-March next year, the issue is likely to generate political heat in the state after the Supreme Court order.
The court also pulled up the central government for its inaction on controversies between the states involving water disputes. “The central government has not taken any stand whatsoever.”
“Whether the dispute should be referred to the Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal, is one of the issues to be decided in the suit. We are, however, required to decide the interim application on the basis of data which is made available to us,” the judgment said.
However, the court regretted that though on one hand, the states talk of inter-state cooperation, on the other hand they engage in “unfortunate controversies”.
“Before we conclude, we must note that although both the states are canvassing the principle of inter-state cooperation, yet there is this unfortunate controversy,” the judgment said.