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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Dear Governor Solanki

Please withhold your assent to the Punjab SYL bill.

Written by Ashok Khemka | Published: March 16, 2016 11:47:40 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.

As per media reports, the Punjab Assembly passed the Punjab Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal Land (Transfer of Proprietary Rights) Bill, 2016 (hereinafter referred to as the bill) on March 14, 2016. On the same day, the Haryana Assembly passed a resolution condemning the passage of the bill, calling it illegal and unconstitutional. As an impartial student of the festering issue affecting Haryana and Punjab, I consider it my moral duty to place the following points for your kind consideration when the bill is presented for assent under Article 200 of the Constitution.

One, under Article 246(1) of the Constitution, Parliament has exclusive power to make laws with respect to any of the matters enumerated in List I in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution referred to as the “Union List”. The object of the bill is to provide for the transfer of proprietary rights to the landowners from whom land was acquired by the Punjab government for the construction of the Sutlej Yamuna Link Main Canal and for the matters connected therewith or incidental thereof. In my submission, the subject matter of the bill falls squarely within Entry 56 of the Union List, and is, therefore, clearly beyond the legislative competence of the Punjab Legislature. Entry 56 of the Union List reads: “Regulation and development of inter-State rivers and river valleys to the extent to which such regulation and development under the control of the Union is declared by Parliament by law to be expedient in the public interest.”

Two, the land for the Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal is under the management of the Bhakra Beas Management Board constituted under Section 79 of the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966, a Central act. The present bill directly affects and is repugnant to two Central legislation — Sections 78, 79 and 80 of the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966 and Section 14 of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956 and cannot, therefore, prevail in the state of Punjab, unless it is reserved for the consideration of the president of India and receives his assent under Article 254(2) of the Constitution.

Three, a reference under Article 143(1) of the Constitution made by the president of India on July 22, 2004 is pending before the Supreme Court of India for consideration and opinion on the following questions with respect to the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004: First, whether the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004 and the provisions thereof are in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of India; second, whether the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004 and the provisions thereof are in accordance with the provisions of Section 14 of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956, Section 78 of the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966 and the Notification dated March 24, 1976 issued thereunder; third, whether the state of Punjab has validly terminated the agreement dated December 31, 1981 and all other agreements relating to the Ravi-Beas waters and is discharged from its obligation under the said agreements(s); and fourth, whether in view of the provisions of the act, the state of Punjab is discharged from its obligations flowing from the judgment and decree dated January 15, 2002 and the judgment and order dated June 4, 2004 of the Supreme Court of India.

Assent to the bill would clearly defeat the presidential reference and render it totally redundant.

Since the bill is beyond the legislative competence of the Punjab legislature, repugnant to the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966 and the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956, and calculated to undermine and defeat the presidential reference to the Supreme Court, it would not be appropriate for his excellency, the governor, to assent to the bill. The governor may kindly reserve the bill for the consideration of the president of India under Article 200 read with Article 254(2) of the Constitution.

The writer is a senior IAS officer. This article is an edited version of his letter to the governor of Punjab, dated March 16.

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