Punjab governor Kaptan Singh Solanki on Tuesday tersely told chief minister Parkash Singh Badal that Punjab’s Bill on the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal would be subjected to tough legal scrutiny before taking a decision on the contentious legislation, it is learnt.
After Punjab’s legislative assembly on Monday unanimously approved the Punjab Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal Land (Transfer of Proprietary Rights) Bill-2016, Badal, accompanied by speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal, parliamentary affairs minister Madan Mohan Mittal (BJP) and Congress leaders, including Congress Legislature Party leader Charanjit Singh Channi, called on Solanki at Raj Bhawan on Tuesday, urging him to give assent to the bill.
The bill has a bearing on sharing of the Ravi-Beas waters over which Punjab and Haryana have been fighting for decades. The Punjab government has decided to transfer “free of cost” the entire 5,376-acre land to the owners that was acquired for the canal over three decades ago by giving Rs 35-crore compensation.
Now, all eyes are on Solanki, who holds the dual charge of Punjab and Haryana. Till Monday evening, sources say, Solanki had not taken any official decision on the fate of the bill, though he had begun consulting legal eagles
According to a well-placed source, the governor gave a piece of his mind to the Punjab leaders when Channi asked Badal to hand over the bill to Solanki.
At this, speaker Atwal, a veteran parliamentarian and former deputy speaker of the Lok Sabha, interjected saying the bill would be handed over to the governor following a proper procedure such as routing the bill file through the legal remembrancer.
No sooner did the speaker finish his sentence than the governor bluntly told them that he wouldn’t have signed the bill even if they had given it at that meeting. Sources say Solanki told the Punjab leaders that he was fully aware of the political fallout and legal repercussions of the legislation.
According to sources, Solanki gave ample hints that he would not give assent to the bill hurriedly as was done by the then Punjab governor when the Termination of Agreements Act, 2004, was passed by the Vidhan Sabha to annul all inter-state agreements relating to Ravi and Beas waters.
“In fact, the governor just kept short of saying that he would not give assent to the bill. Solanki even referred to the fact that the then Punjab governor had to lose his chair soon after giving assent to the 2004 bill. The governor did some plain speaking and hinted that he would deal with the issue legally and carefully,” a source present during the meeting told HT.
It is understood that any step the governor will take on the bill will have New Delhi’s unofficial approval as the issue has already raised political temperatures not only in Punjab but also in Haryana.