Supreme Court strikes down Punjab law on SYL canal, ruling heats up election run-up

The judgment is a huge setback for the SAD-BJP alliance ahead of the upcoming Punjab Assembly elections.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Updated: November 11, 2016 12:22 pm
SAD, SYL, Satluj-Yamuna Link, Shiromani Akali Dal, haryana govt, Satluj-Yamuna Link bill, SYL unconstitutional, Punjab Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal Land, captain amarinder singh, khattar government, indian express editorial, indian express The Punjab Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal Land Bill, 2016 seeks to paper over many of the state’s building crises.

In a ruling that’s likely to heat up the campaigns in election-bound Punjab, the Supreme Court Thursday declared as unconstitutional a law enacted by the Punjab government in 2004 to wriggle out of its liability of constructing the Satluj-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal and share the Ravi-Beas waters with neighbouring states.

“We are of the view that the Punjab Act cannot be considered to be legal and valid and the State of Punjab cannot absolve itself from its duties/liabilities arising out of the Agreement in question,” ruled a five-judge Constitution Bench while answering a Presidential Reference of 2004.

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The order by the bench, headed by Justice Anil R Dave, also restores and revives the decree passed by the Supreme Court in 2004 whereby the central government was directed to mobilise a central agency to take control of the canal works from Punjab immediately and complete it expeditiously.

Execution of the decree and completion of the canal work would mean allocation of 3.50 MAF (million acre-feet) water to Haryana whereas the existing Bhakra Main Canal has the capacity of supplying only 1.62 MAF of water to that state.

The bench, also comprising Justices P C Ghose, Shiva Kirti Singh, Adarsh K Goel and Amitava Roy, was critical of the fact that by seeking to terminate its 1981 agreement with Haryana and Rajasthan, the Punjab government also sought to nullify two Supreme Court judgments of 2002 and 2004, and the consequent decree passed by it whereby Punjab was asked to construct the canal on its territory.

It shot down Punjab’s argument that the bench did not have to answer the Presidential Reference and that the Reference was not maintainable since the law enacted by Punjab was within its statutory powers.

The bench held that there were good reasons to answer this Reference and noted that “Punjab had exceeded its legislative power in proceeding to nullify the decree of this court and therefore, the Punjab Act cannot be said to be a validly enacted legislation.”

It said that Punjab could not have unilaterally terminated the agreement, which would mean depriving Haryana and other states of their share of river waters despite court orders directing Punjab to carry out its obligation.

“The Punjab Act cannot be said to be in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of India as well as the provisions of the Inter State Water Disputes Act… there is a legal sanction to the said arrangement and once a binding decree has been passed by a court of law, a party to the litigation cannot unilaterally act in a manner which would nullify the effect of the decree,” the bench said in a concurring judgment.

On Punjab’s contention that the entire matter could be referred to the Inter-State Water Tribunal since circumstances regarding availability of water has changed over the years, the top court said that Punjab, being a party to the water-sharing agreement, could not be allowed to withdraw on its own to the disadvantage of other parties.

The bench also called it “unwarranted” that while it was hearing the Reference, the Punjab legislature brought in a Bill to de-notify land meant for construction of the canal and sought to return it to original landowners.

The Central government, during the course of the hearing, maintained that it was taking a “neutral stand” on the issue.

Writing a concurrent judgment, Justice Shiva Kirti Singh asserted that all stakeholders must remember the supremacy of the Constitution, essential features of federalism and the fact that judgments and decrees, which are the end product of exercise of judicial power, cannot be set at naught by the process of legislative declaration in respect of facts and circumstances.

Concluding his short judgment, Justice Singh regretted: “Delay in execution of a final judgment or decree, more so when it is of the apex court, should never be countenanced by any authority because it would surely tend to undermine people’s faith in the judicial system of the country, entailing in turn avoidable harm to all the institutions and functionaries under the Constitution, may be even to the Constitution itself.”

Protesting against the court judgment, Congress MLAs resigned en masse. Party state president Amarinder Singh also resigned as Member of Parliament and called for a press conference at 4.30 pm today. The judgment is a huge setback for the SAD-BJP alliance ahead of the upcoming Punjab Assembly elections. SAD MP In Rajya Sabha, Sabha Naresh Gujral, however, said the party would study all the legal options available instead of resorting to drama like the Congress. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar hailed the court’s decision, saying the judgment has brought a smile on every Haryanvi’s face. In March this year, the Punjab Assembly passed a resolution not to share a single drop of water with Haryana.

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  1. A
    Anuj
    Nov 10, 2016 at 11:47 am
    Water is coming down from Himachal so shouldn't Himachal also stop sharing the water with Punjab ???
    Reply
    1. S
      Singh
      Nov 10, 2016 at 12:45 pm
      If water is natural resource then charcoal is also natural resource then why not other states give free charcoal to All states including Punjab
      Reply
      1. A
        Abc
        Nov 12, 2016 at 5:54 pm
        Everybody wants to finish punjab everybody wants everything from punjab for nothing and punjab must pay for everything
        Reply
        1. S
          Satendra kumar
          Nov 11, 2016 at 2:59 am
          Supreme Court the highest judiciary system in India except the supreme commander of the land The President so the decision should be constructive non biased and viable for the betterment of all Indians.
          Reply
          1. T
            Tinku
            Nov 10, 2016 at 10:44 am
            haha..UP, gujarat is already lost..now punjab is also gone from BJP.good going.
            Reply
            1. A
              A.Subramanian
              Nov 10, 2016 at 3:24 pm
              DOUBLE STANDARD OF THE CENTRElt;br/gt;Reacting to the age old struggle between Punjab and Haryana over the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal, the Supreme Court on Thursday ped a verdict saying that it is unconsutional for the Punjab state government to terminate a water sharing agreement with other states. lt;br/gt;The Solicitor General, appearing on behalf of the Centre, took a pro-Haryana stance, saying the Centre stood by the SC’s orders asking Punjab to complete the work on SYL in its territory. The development has triggered a political storm in Punjab.lt;br/gt;Where the bjp is stronger, so will be the shift of stand by the centre. Whereas in cauvery, the centre upholds the rights of upper riparian state , in SYL it supports the lower riparian state. lt;br/gt;What is common in both the cases - bjp can't form a govt on its own in Punjab and TN. In SYL, the dispute is a interlinking of a man made canal where the centre will support the lower riparian rights but in a natural flowing stream it will support a upper riparian right.lt;br/gt;What a political dharma!!!
              Reply
              1. B
                bullet f
                Nov 11, 2016 at 11:05 am
                DELUDED WOG
                Reply
                1. K
                  Kaliyug
                  Nov 10, 2016 at 11:37 pm
                  Water wars are going to be the root cause for most future conflicts, it is already evident today in many parts of the world. The new technology to get water from the sea, recycle gray water for drinking via cleaning processes should be implemented immediately, rather than running after 1981/2004 agreements that make land acquisitions difficult. With 365 days of good sunshine India can be the energy leader rather than the recipient of the World bank or other countries.
                  Reply
                  1. S
                    SurajParkash
                    Nov 11, 2016 at 3:24 am
                    Haryana Govt must now claim and insist for compensations from Punjab for the entire financial losses amounting to thousands of crores ever since 2004 at the rate of 19.4 charged by banks on defaulted accounts, charged at compound rate ever since 2004. Noone, including Punjab Govt, even againstillegal legislation in its embly, can unilaterally abbrogate any agreement with Haryana with guarantee from Central Govt. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;And if Punjab refuses to compensate Punjab, Central Govt must ensure for release of w water flow to Haryana for 32 years, the years Haryana was starved of its rightful use of SYL Canal waters.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;We are living in a lwaful democracy, and Punjab cannot use Talibani illegal and unsocial goondaism to unilaterally cancel agreement else Haryana would be forced to and allowed similar unlawful actions to stop all road and rail traffic ping through Haryana, which will cause grave trumoil in the country, all because of an adament Badal to grab power during the election periods. And the BJP Govt at Centre must cut off all contacts with Badal party to ensure that the laws and agreements are not disturbed.. and even the Badals and promoters of this concept by Badals be declared as enemies of countrylt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Suraj Parkash
                    Reply
                    1. I
                      Inderpreet
                      Nov 10, 2016 at 1:22 pm
                      Agreed national Interest is ok but its not Politics.The water level in Satluj is not even that much that I can flow continuously in SYL,Not Even in Monsoon its flow is that much. Inderpreet Singh from Punjab but residing and working in Gurgaon Haryana,
                      Reply
                      1. J
                        JAG
                        Nov 11, 2016 at 1:39 am
                        India Media when reporting be sure to inform the people that Punjab is already giving more than three fourth of water to other states. Syl will destroy punjab.
                        Reply
                        1. J
                          JAG
                          Nov 10, 2016 at 6:54 pm
                          We will see in these days How w Hindu India will be against Punjab. When Punjabis are dying at the border they are very Nationalist. But when they are talking about their rights they will be bed as Anti-Nationalists. We will see the Hypocrisy of Hindu India in coming days.
                          Reply
                          1. R
                            Ramakrishnan Iyer
                            Nov 10, 2016 at 3:21 pm
                            None is a dispute. We are finding out ways to dispute it. Once agreement is signed it should be executed. Whether the earlier government signed or not. Punjab position cannot be appreciated. Each state requires the other. Tomorrow if one state says that Punjabis should not travel through their state what will happen. We have seen what happened because of low level politics in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Let it not happen in Haryana and Punjab. What the Jats agitation did in Haryana everyone knows. Suppose Jats (Hindus and Punjabi Sikhs) start something, there will be no end to it. People do not have any problem. Suppose it is genuine, my house will give a bucket of water to my neighbour when he does not have it. Or should share. That should be the atude. Here, the principle of arrogance is coming in front.
                            Reply
                            1. T
                              TEJINDER
                              Nov 11, 2016 at 11:29 am
                              Punjab is sharing 50% of its river water with Rajasthan and 25% of its water with harayana already. now with this SYL it will share 13% of its water more with haryana. punjab is left with only 12. Punjab will going to became a desert. That punjab which gave food to w nation, will going to beg for same very shortly.
                              Reply
                              1. K
                                K GOPALAN
                                Nov 10, 2016 at 10:52 am
                                Captain Amrinder Singhji, There is no point in your resignation as MP. Better fight it out legally.
                                Reply
                                1. S
                                  Sankaran Krishnan
                                  Nov 11, 2016 at 3:21 pm
                                  Very good order by the Supreme Court which striked the order and Punjab is conveniently forgotten that we are in the Federal system of Governance and water hs to be shared among the riparian States as agreed upon all these years
                                  Reply
                                  1. M
                                    mullum
                                    Nov 11, 2016 at 2:12 am
                                    Any ways . .who are there in Punjab anyways .. majority of them have shifted to other states . . . and those left are getting fooled by the akalis and captains instigating starements . .kaam toh kuch karna nahee hai?
                                    Reply
                                    1. V
                                      victim
                                      Nov 10, 2016 at 7:06 pm
                                      Stop making it Hindu vs Punjabi issue. It’s a matter between two states same as Karnataka and Tamilnadu. Even Karantaka obe the respected the SC ruling.
                                      Reply
                                      1. M
                                        Man
                                        Nov 10, 2016 at 7:34 pm
                                        This Canal is never going run.lt;br/gt;We all will see. This is not my personal opinion, it is voice of punjabi farmer. If we (sikh) can sacrifice our for this nation then we can defend our water from corrupt and anti sikh nation.
                                        Reply
                                        1. M
                                          mathimathi
                                          Nov 10, 2016 at 12:52 pm
                                          Its looks like Karnataka TN Cauvery Chhattisgarh Odisha Mahanadi Goa Karnataka Mahadayi River dispute.;)
                                          Reply
                                          1. P
                                            Pavan
                                            Nov 10, 2016 at 10:52 am
                                            shameless analysis. water should be shared, no individual has exclusive rights over water.
                                            Reply
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