Isolated by other stakeholders over the water-sharing dispute of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal, Punjab on Friday said the Supreme Court was not bound to answer the Presidential reference made at the instance of the Centre which had no power to resolve the dispute.
The Parkash Singh Badal Government also submitted that a fresh tribunal be set up to resolve all disputes with other states, including Haryana on all aspects, which would also cover the riparian rights and the dwindling flow.
Appearing for Punjab, senior advocate Ram Jethmalani said the apex court was not bound to answer the Presidential reference on the validity of the Punjab Termination of Agreements, 2004.
“Though it is a Presidential reference, it had been done at the instance of the Centre which had no power to decide the water dispute. The reference had been made under Article 143 (1) of the Constitution which clearly stated that the Supreme Court ‘may’ answer it. This was quite contrary to references made under Article 143(2) which shall be answerable by the Supreme Court,” senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, appearing for Punjab, submitted before a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by AR Dave.
The noted jurist said Punjab had sought a fresh tribunal in 2003, 18 months before the 2004 law, to review the 1981 tripartite agreement on river-water sharing in view of the depleting flow and other changed circumstances.
The stand of Punjab over the issue was opposed by Rajasthan through senior advocate CS Vaidhyanathan, who contended that it had no right to enact the 2004 law, terminating its water-sharing agreements.
The water sharing agreement was between Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir.
Countering Rajasthan’s contention, Jethmalani maintained that the Punjab Assembly had every right to enact the 2004 law, though it was not binding on other states.
On Haryana’s demand, he contended that after its creation in 1966, it had become a riparian state of the Yamuna and was getting its share. At the same time, it had lost its riparian rights after it was carved out of Punjab.
On April 4, the hearing had seen Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir siding with Haryana and the bench had asked the attorney general or solicitor general to clarify the Centre’s stand clear on the reference pertaining to the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004.