June 26, 2010 | By Tejashdeep Singh
Patiala (June 26, 2010): The Sikh Students Federation has called upon Punjab Government to Challenge the authenticity of Sections 78-80 of Punjab Reorganization Act (1966) in order to safeguard the interests and riparian rights of the State. In a statement SSF National President, Parmjeet Singh Gazi maintained that these sections are ultra-vires of the Constitution of India, and thus void. As per entry 17 of List II under Seventh Schedule of the Constitution: Water, that is to say, water supplies, irrigation and canals, drainage and embankments, water storage and water power are exclusive subjects of the States. However in case of inter-state rivers this entry is subject to the provisions of entry 56 of List I, i.e. the Union List, which authorizes center to regulate and control inter-state rivers. Using this power the Center has enacted “Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 which applies to Inter-State rivers in case of genuine water sharing disputes. “Entry 56, List II and the Act of 1956 do not apply to Punjab Rivers as they are not inter-state rivers in relation of Haryana Rajasthan and Delhi, thus no genuine water sharing dispute could arise between them.” claimed PS Gazi, who maintained that Sections 78 to 80 of the Reorganization Act (1966) violates the policy of center-state relations embodies under three lists of Schedule Seven, as they authorizes the Center’s encroachment over exclusive subject of State. It is notable that trio sections authorize Center to control river waters of Punjab through Bhakhra Beas Management Board.
These sections were previously challenged by Akali Government in late 1970s but in early 1982 the Congress CM Darbara Singh, allegedly under acute pressure from Central Congress Government withdrew the entire case from the Supreme Court of India. In 1982 these provisions were again challenged by some Farmer’s Associations in Punjab and Haryana High Court, but case was not listed for hearing by any Judge for a long time. In 1983 Justice Sandhawalia, as he was then, took up the case and fixed 15 November, 1983 as date for hearing; but the hearing was delayed by Advocate General of India who took ex-parte interlocutory relief from the Supreme Court of India on a day before hearing i.e. on 14 November, 1983. That evening Justice Sandhawalia was hurriedly transferred to Patna High Court. On 18 November 1983 the case was called off the High Court by the Supreme Court on 18 November, 1983 under Article 139A. This case was then never listed for hearing before SC.
“Previous experience of Punjab in challenging the Constitutional vires of these sections was of bad taste but the whole process undertaken to prevent the legal proceeding indicates that there is much potential for success in this legal battle” said Parmjeet Singh Gazi, who emphasized that the Punjab Government should challenge authenticity of sections 78-80 without any further delay.
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