The Punjab government has no option other than adopting delaying tactics over the Supreme Court verdict on the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal, but it has no escape route now, say legal experts.
Former Jammu and Kashmir high court chief justice MM Kumar said the state government has to implement the verdict in letter and spirit, as the apex court has answered a Presidential reference and it is binding on government(s).
“Emotional issues cannot be mixed with legal aspects. By and large, the issue stands settled. The SC has considered the issue after hearing all parties and given its verdict. The chapter closes here and now,” he added.
A senior advocate with the Punjab and Haryana high court said the state government can take the matter to its assembly again to enact a new law as part of delaying tactics, but it would mean nothing. “Eventually, when the matter reaches Supreme Court again, it may pass strictures against the government for not honouring its verdict,” he said on the condition of anonymity.
Like any other party in a court dispute, the Punjab government has the options of seeking a review and later filing curative petitions, but a major shift in the verdict of the apex court is a remote possibility.
“They have now limited choices. Legal options have been exhausted. I have been there for some years. The options of review and curative petitions are there with any litigant. But it is very unusual to succeed after this,” said a retired SC judge, who wished not to be named.
Harbhagwan Singh, who was Punjab advocate general when the Act was passed by the state assembly in 2004, sounded a word of caution to the state government. “I would say, go as per law. Don’t take the matter to streets. It is not a dispute between two countries, but between two states of one country,” he said, asking the Punjab government to implement the verdict.
As for the Union government, experts said it was expected to continue with its neutral stand.
“They will open Pandora’s box if they take any side in this dispute. They (BJP) are in government in both the states. Even otherwise, there is a remote possibility of them taking the matter to Parliament. But they will not do so. There are so many other water disputes between the states,” another senior advocate said.