Thursday, June 8, 2023

Sutlej-Yamuna Link: Haryana urges Supreme Court for directions to Punjab on completion of canal

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The Haryana government has requested the Supreme Court to issue directions to the Punjab government for completion of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal, pursuant to its 2002 order on the same.

The State of Haryana on Thursday apprised the three-Judge Bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice B.V. Nagarathna that bilateral talks with Punjab did not yield fruitful results. 

The planning for construction of the 211-kilometre-long canal connecting Sutlej and Yamuna started in 1966 after the reorganisation of Punjab, but it got boost only in 1976, after the Centre issued a notification that the two states would receive 3.5 million acre-feet (MAF) of water each.

In 1981, a water-sharing agreement was signed between the two countries to reallocate the waters of Ravi and Beas. 

The State of Haryana apprised the top court of the country that it has built 90 kilometres of the canal that fell within its territory.

However, the work in Punjab remained incomplete due to mounting pressure from the opposition parties and other groups at that time.

Representing Haryana, Senior Advocate Shyam Divan contended that pursuant to this court’s order in September, two meetings have been held in October and January, but they did not have any successful outcome. 

He said in the past five years, nine meetings have been held. Some of them were attended by the Chief Ministers of both the States. along with the Minister of Jal Shakti, as per the order of the Apex Court. 

The Senior Counsel contended that the case had witnessed arguments over the suit, a decree, directions passed in execution, subsequent rounds, state legislation, presidential reference, a judgement of this court’s Constitution Bench, and further proceedings. 

Divan sought judicial intervention of the top court of the country in the form of orders, to bring the case to a closure.

The Apex Court said that it would consider Divan’s proposal at the next hearing on March 15, since an adjournment was requested on behalf of the Union of India.

The original suit was filed by Haryana against Punjab in 1996, in which a favourable ruling was received by the plaintiff-state in 2002. 

Despite the apex court judgement ordering Punjab to build the SYL canal within a year, and a categorical reiteration of the same stand in 2004, the dispute between the two states had continued.
Punjab government passed the Termination of Agreement Act in 2004, seeking to nullify its water-sharing agreement with Haryana.

The Act was struck down in 2016 by the Supreme Court, which also rejected the demand made by Punjab to be released from its obligation to finish construction of the river canal. 

The Constitution Bench headed by Justice Anil R. Dave had then observed that the agreement could not have been unilaterally terminated by one of the parties by exercising its legislative power and if any party or any state did so, such unilateral action of a particular state had to be declared contrary to the Constitution of India as well as the provisions of the Inter State Water Disputes Act, 1956. 

The Central government was directed in 2004 by way of a decree to take over the canal works from the recalcitrant state.

(Case title: State of Haryana vs State of Punjab)

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