It has been three years since the UPA government made a Presidential reference on the validity of the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004.
The Act abrogated all water accords with neighbouring States. Regarding this, the Supreme Court on Tuesday fixed September 18 for a final hearing before a constitution bench.
Senior advocate Shanti Bhushan, Haryana government’s counsel, urged the court for an early hearing of the reference. Delhi government advocate supported him claiming that the Capital was also getting affected.
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan reiterated Punjab Government’s earlier stand to maintain the flow of water to Haryana and Rajasthan as it existed at the time of formulating the Act in July 2004. He claimed that residents of Punjab opposed the canal’s construction as it would affect the Sutlej basin and is an environmental hazard.
The Punjab Assembly had in July 2004, passed the Termination of Agreements Act, 2004 scrapping all the existing water-sharing agreements since 1981. This came after the SC asked it to complete its part of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal.
The State Assembly took an unprecedented step by enacting the law and annulling its water agreements. Earlier, on January 15, 2002 the court had passed a similar direction. Though the Punjab government filed a review petition, the State Assembly promulgated the law to allegedly circumvent the court’s directions.
However, Section 5 of the Act provided for maintaining the flow of water to the neighbouring states as it existed at the time of passing of the Act in July 2004. The UPA government later made a Presidential Reference to the SC to examine the validity of this Act. All the concerned parties were asked to file their response to the Reference.
When the SAD-BJP led government in Punjab recently threatened to curtail the existing flow of water to the neighbouring states, Haryana approached the SC on March 3 requesting an early hearing.
Meanwhile, the SC directed the Central Government to initiate “appropriate” action on the Central Vigilance Commission report on HUDCO.
The report had indicted the corporation’s officials for allegedly sanctioning loans to private firms having a bad track record on debt re-payment. The bench also asked the Centre to place an action taken report within eight weeks.