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SCI Says Punjab Law Scrapping Water Sharing With Other States Not Legal

November 10, 2016 | By

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday declared that Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004 scrapping so-called water-sharing agreements with neighbouring Haryana and other states is ultra vires (unconstitutional). The court also said that the Punjab government should start work to construct controversial Sutlej Yamuna canal as SCI 2004 decision.

The court further said that Punjab government’s decision to break the unilateral agreement with Haryana was not right and Haryana will get its share of water while Punjab doesn’t have the right to go against the agreement. Citing the Presidential reference, the SC said what Punjab did was not correct. Punjab government’s decision to break the unilateral agreement was not right. Construction work will take place at the canal and judgement of 2004 will prevail.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice A R Dave, who is demitting office on November 18, had reserved the verdict on May 12 after the Centre maintained its earlier stand of 2004, that the states concerned should settle their disputes on the matter by themselves.

The Centre had said it was not taking sides and was maintaining a neutral stand in the matter in which the court has recorded the stand of other states — Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir.

During the hearing of the case, while Punjab Assembly passed a law to return the land acquired on its side for the construction of SYL canal, the Haryana government approached the apex court which directed the status quo to maintained.

The court had also appointed the Union Home Secretary and Punjab’s Chief Secretary and Director General of Police (DGP) as the ‘joint receiver’ of land and other property meant for SYL canal.

Isolated by other stakeholders over the dispute over water-sharing of SYL canal, Punjab had earlier said the Supreme Court was not bound to answer the presidential reference made at the instance of the Centre which had no power to resolve the dispute.

The Parkash Singh Badal government had submitted that a fresh tribunal be set up to resolve all disputes with other states including Haryana on all aspects, which will also cover the riparian rights and the dwindling flow of water.

It had said a fresh tribunal was sought in 2003, about 18 months before the 2004 law, to review the 1981 Longowal Accord on river water-sharing in view of depleting flow and other changed circumstances.

The alleged water-sharing agreement was among Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir.



Loot of Punjab Waters – the (so-called) Agreements:

The Central Governments of India made ‘extra-legal and extra-constitutional arrangements’ (as these arrangements were made in violation of relevant provisions of the Indian Constitution) to allocate Punjab’s river waters to the afore-mentioned non-riparian states. These arrangements include the so-called agreements of 1955, 1976 (notification), 1981 (Indira Award) and 1986 (Eradi Tribunal).

Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, Section 5 of PTAA and Punjab’s riparian rights:

The Punjab Termination of Agreements Act (PTAA) 2004 could be termed as a “murder” of Punjab’s riparian rights by none else than the Punjab’s own state assembly and elected representatives.

On 12 July, 2004 the Punjab Assembly passed PTAA in attempt to neutralise the Indian Supreme Court’s directions to complete the construction of controversial Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) canal before 14 July, 2004. The law was moved by a Congress Government led by Captain Amarinder Singh and it was supported by the opposition Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), thus this, the PTAA was passed unanimously by the state assembly.

Though the enactment of the PTAA has paused the issue of construction of the SYL for the time being, this law has done a larger damage. Before the enactment of the PTAA the river waters of Punjab were being robbed through illegal arrangements but since the adoption of Section 5 of the PTAA, illegal allocation of Punjab’s river water to non-riparian states has received the stamp of the Punjab Assembly.

It may appear strange, but it’s true, that in order to prevent construction of the SYL (that is supposed to carry out 34 LAF river water), the Punjab Assembly accepted and legalised the distribution of a major share of Punjab’s river water (around 147.5 LAF) to the non-riparian states of Rajasthan (86 LAF), Haryana (59.5 LAF) and Delhi (2 LAF).

It should also be noted here that according to Punjab’s ex-chief engineer G. S. Dhillon, Haryana is already getting 18 LAF (out of 34 LAF) by additional discharge from the Bhakhra Bias Management Board (BBMB) through the Bhakhra Canal. Mr. Dhillon maintains that the Hansi Butana Link canal project of Haryana aims at taking away the remaining 16 LAF (SYL) water (though extra discharge in Bhakhra Main Line to which Hansi Buntana will link at Samana area of Punjab) even without actual construction of the SYL canal.

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