The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear on November 21 the plea of Haryana alleging that Punjab was violating its earlier interim order that the status quo on land meant for Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal be maintained. “Let it be listed for hearing on Monday,” a bench of Justices A R Dave and A M Khanwilkar said when the counsel for Haryana mentioned its fresh plea and sought urgent hearing saying that the efforts have been made to breach the earlier order asking Punjab to maintain status quo on the land meant for the canal project.
Recently, the Punjab government decided to denotify the land acquired for SYL canal project with immediate effect and return it to its owners free of charge. The state governmment’s decision assumed significance as a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice Dave had recently held as “unconstitutional” the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act, 2004 which “unilaterally” terminated the 1981 water-sharing pact with Haryana.
The apex court has held that Punjab cannot “unilaterally” terminate the agreement or legislate to “nullify” the verdict of the highest court. Haryana today rushed to the court alleging that Punjab was not honouring the November 10 verdict and the March 17 interim order by which it was directed to maintain status quo on land meant for SYL canal. The apex court in its interim order had also appointed 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.
The order was passed when the Haryana government had said that Punjab Assembly had on March 14 passed a bill against construction of SYL canal providing for transfer of proprietary rights back to the land owners free of cost. Besides the Haryana government, lawyer Satbir Hooda, a resident of Rohtak in Haryana who runs an NGO, has also filed a criminal contempt plea against Prakash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal, Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab respectively, alleging that they have made statements that the apex court verdict in the case will not be allowed to be implemented.
The controversial 1981 water-sharing agreement came into being after Haryana was carved out of Punjab in 1966.