An interlocutory application (IA) filed by the Punjab government in the Supreme Court during the resumed hearing of the presidential reference on the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act-2004 was rejected by the five-member constitutional bench on Tuesday.
Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, appearing for Punjab, requested Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel to recuse from the bench on the grounds that he belonged to Haryana. “The request was supplemented by several such precedents in which cases related to inter-state water disputes are generally not heard by a judge from either state. However, the application was rejected,” said advocate JS Chhabra who also appeared on Punjab’s behalf.
“We had attached with our application judgments where judges, including Justices JS Khehar, SS Nijjar, HL Dattu and Kurian Joseph had opted out of such cases voluntarily,” said Chhabra.
The bench headed by Justice Anil R Dave, however, rejected the application giving instances where such cases had been handled by judges from home states.
Meanwhile, solicitor general Ranjit Kumar said Punjab could ask for a reduction in the share of water set aside for other states rather than completely shy away from meeting its commitments. During the last hearing on February 29, Kumar had told the bench that the Centre’s stand on the issue was the same as earlier that the construction of the canal should be started. The presidential reference was moved by Haryana. The construction of the canal which was to divide the waters of Sutlej, Ravi and Beas between Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan was halted in 1990 after Sikh militants killed two engineers working on the project.