SYL row: Punjab isolated as J&K, HP, Rajasthan, Delhi side with Haryana
Punjab on Monday appeared to be isolated over the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal water-sharing issue, with all other stakeholders coming out in Haryana’s support in the Supreme Court which asked the Centre to take a stand in the matter.punjab Updated: Apr 04, 2016 22:51 IST
Punjab on Monday appeared to be isolated over the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal water-sharing issue, with all other stakeholders coming out in Haryana’s support in the Supreme Court which asked the Centre to take a stand in the matter.
In the hearing that saw Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi supporting the stand of Haryana on the Presidential Reference over the SYL Canal, a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by justice AR Dave said the attorney general or solicitor general should make the Centre’s stand clear on the reference pertaining to the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004.
“We expect somebody to be present on behalf of the Union of India. You should understand the importance of the Presidential Reference. You doubted the Act (Punjab law) and you made the Presidential Reference. You attack it or you support it. Union of India has to take some stand.
“What is the stand of the Union of India. It is not a fight between XYZ. It is a Presidential Reference. You have to answer. You have options -- attack, defend or be neutral,” the bench, also comprising justice PC Ghose, Shiva Kirti Singh, AK Goel and Amitava Roy, observed.
The Centre’s counsel, Wasim Qadri, tried to explain the absence of top law officers and said the Union of India will make submissions after the states. “We are not against any state. Let the states explain their stand and then we will say,” he said.
‘Centre of playing politics’
The remarks of the bench came after senior advocate Rajeev Dhawan, appearing for Punjab, accused the Centre of playing politics and hide-and-seek on its stand on the reference in view of the election in the state where its coalition partner, the Shiromani Akali Dal, is running the government.
“The Centre should come out with a certain stand. Because the election is around, it is playing hide and seek. The election is around, we all know. The reference is embroidered by politics,” he submitted and added that the Centre should not treat the reference as a dispute between Haryana and Punjab.
“Treat it as a matter of legislative competence,” he said and elaborated that the question was whether Punjab has the legislative competence to come out with the Act to terminate the water-sharing agreements with other states.
While Dhawan repeated that the Centre should spell out its stand and even if it was neutral, the reasons for it, the bench said it was because the Centre has no answers, it made a reference through the President to the apex court.
The bench said it has to hear the matter as a question of law was involved and reiterated that the Centere has to come forward with some stand.
Hearing resumes on Friday
Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, also appearing for Punjab, said he will be ready with the arguments when the court resumed hearing on Friday.
Himachal Pradesh said it was in support of Haryana that Punjab has no legislative competence to come out with the law to terminate the water-sharing agreement.
Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi also said they are siding with Haryana as the agreement was not terminated validly.
During the last hearing on April 1, the Punjab government had asked the Centre to come out with details of the Presidential Reference on the SYL Canal issue, including why it was made.
The Centre had said it was maintaining a “neutral” stand in the tussle between Punjab and Haryana over sharing of water through the SYL Canal. On March 14, it had said that it “will not take any side”. On the same day, the Punjab assembly had passed the bill against construction of the contentious SYLCanal providing for transfer of proprietary rights back to the land owners free of cost.
Three days later, the apex court had directed maintenance of status quo on land meant for the canal, after Haryana alleged that attempts have been made to alter its use by levelling it.
The apex court in its interim order had also appointed Union home secretary and Punjab’s chief secretary and director general of police as the “joint receiver” of the land and other property meant for the SYL Canal till further orders.
The legislation, Punjab Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal (Rehabilitation and Re-vesting of Proprietary Rights) Bill, paves the way for denotifying 5,300 acres acquired in the Punjab side for 122 km SYL canal, of which 92 km falls in Haryana.