Centre steps in to resolve Punjab-Haryana SYL canal dispute

Centre steps in to resolve Punjab-Haryana SYL canal dispute
Centre steps in to resolve Punjab-Haryana SYL canal dispute

The Centre has stepped in to resolve the decades-old contentious issue of Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal between Punjab and Haryana, the Supreme Court was informed today.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told a bench headed by Justice P C Ghose that a meeting has been called on April 20 by the Centre which has invited the two states Punjab and Haryana to resolve the issues.

The Attorney General mentioned the matter before the bench, also comprising Justice R F Nariman, and sought deferring of the scheduled hearing on April 12.

The civil law suit on the issue which was also listed for hearing today was adjourned in view of the statements made by Rohatgi.

In Chandigarh, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh welcomed the Prime Minister’s reported decision to hold a meeting of Punjab and Haryana on April 20 to resolve the contentious Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) issue.

When the matter was heard before a five-judge constitution bench, the Centre had made it clear that it was not taking any sides in the dispute between the northern riparian states which also included Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Union territory of Delhi.

On March 2, in a stern message to Punjab, the apex court had said its verdict allowing construction of the SYL canal in Haryana and Punjab has to be implemented.

It had said that it would deliberate upon Punjab’s contention as to whether the judgement of a five-judge constitution bench, which held its law unconstitutional, was binding.

A five-judge bench, while answering the Presidential Reference on November 11, 2016, had held that the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act, 2004 was unconstitutional as it negated the effect of apex court judgements of 2002 and 2004.

Punjab had contended that the apex court order was not binding as it was given under its advisory jurisdiction and the Punjab law still stands.

The Punjab government had said that the verdict which held Punjab Termination of Agreement Act, 2004 as unconstitutional did not render the law invalid, as the apex court had only given an opinion on the Presidential Reference.

On November 30 last year, the court had directed status quo on SYL canal and appointed Union Home Secretary, Chief Secretary of Punjab and the Punjab DGP as court receivers of the lands, works, property and portions of the canal.

It had asked them to file a report with regard to the ground situation of the property.

The court had then also thwarted Punjab’s attempt to wriggle out of SYL water sharing pact, saying it cannot “unilaterally” terminate it or legislate to “nullify” the verdict of the highest court.

The court had issued notice to Punjab on Haryana’s plea seeking enforcement of the apex court verdicts and appointment of the receivers to ensure that the project land in Punjab remained intact.

The controversial 1981 water-sharing agreement came into being after Haryana was carved out of Punjab in 1966.

For effective allocation of water, the SYL canal link was conceptualised and both the states were required to construct their portions within their territories.

Haryana constructed the portion of SYL canal in its territory. However, Punjab, after the initial phase, stopped the work, leading to spate of litigations.

In 2004, the Congress government in the state came out with the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act with an intention to terminate the 1981 agreement and all other pacts relating to sharing of waters of rivers Ravi and Beas.

The apex court had first decreed the suit of Haryana in 2002 asking Punjab to honour its commitments with regard to water sharing in the case.

Punjab challenged the verdict by filing an original suit that was rejected in 2004 by the Supreme Court which asked the Centre to take over the remaining infrastructural work of the SYL canal project.

( Source – PTI )

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