The Punjab government on Monday claimed in the Supreme Court that it was being “unfairly treated” on the water-sharing issue and sought the setting up of a fresh tribunal to resolve its dispute with other states on the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue.
“Throughout the course of history, it is Punjab that has been unfairly treated, so much so that now people have started opposing their own government. Why are farmers in the state being deprived of irrigation?” questioned senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, appearing for the state before a five-judge constitution bench headed by justice AR Dave.
“Today what Haryana has got is not being noticed at all. It has got a windfall by taking the share of Yamuna water. Punjab is not getting its due share even from the Ravi and Beas. The state has preferential right as far as these rivers are concerned. We are getting nothing from Yamuna, Ravi and Beas,” said Jethmalani.
‘Apex court has no jurisdiction’
Referring to Article 262 of the constitution, he said the apex court does not have jurisdiction over the matter and water dispute matters can be heard only by a tribunal created for the purpose.
Article 262 states that the Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of the waters of any inter-state river or river valley.
“In sub-clause (2) it says: ‘Notwithstanding anything in this constitution, Parliament may, by law, provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint as is referred to in clause (1),” said Jethmalani.
The noted jurist further said that under the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, every agreement had to be reviewed after a gap taking into account falling flow of the river water and other circumstances. He said the SYL canal issue is no different as the allocation of water was made 60 years ago.
The hearing remained inconclusive and will resume on April 18. Isolated by other stakeholders over the issue, Punjab had said that it was not bound to answer the Presidential reference made at the instance of the Centre, which had no power to resolve the dispute.
On April 4, the hearing had seen Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir siding with Haryana, following which the bench had asked the attorney general or solicitor general to clarify the Centre’s stand on the reference pertaining to the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004.