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Monday, Nov 18, 2019

SC grants four months to Punjab, Haryana to settle SYL dispute

cities Updated: Sep 04, 2019 01:05 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent

Chandigarh The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted a four-month window to the central, Punjab and Haryana governments to find a solution to the long-pending issue of completion of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal.

In its January 15, 2002, and June 4, 2004, judgments, the apex court had ordered the completion of the remaining portion of the SYL canal in Punjab.

A three-member bench headed by justice Arun Mishra on Tuesday heard the two states and the Centre on the progress made regarding the execution of the apex court’s decree. Attorney general KK Venugopal sought three more months to hold out mediation and resolve the dispute. The bench, however, granted four months.

Haryana additional advocate general (AAG) Anish Gupta sought a cut-off date for holding mediations and finalising the issue. Gupta said there was a court decree of 2002 and it was a 40-year-old dispute. “Mediation cannot be an endless process and some direction has to be given for a setting a time frame,’’ the AAG said.

The SC had on July 9 said that “it hoped and trusted that functionaries of both the states will rise to the occasion to find out a solution which is in the interest of all and ultimately if this court is required to hear the matter on merits, definitely, it will do so’.

On directions of the apex court, top officials of the central, Haryana and Punjab governments had met twice in August to find a way to settle the dispute. However, the two rounds of meetings remained inconclusive.

Haryana is sticking to its stance that their share of 3.5 million acre feet (MAF) in the Ravi and Beas waters and the completion of the canal are absolutely non-negotiable. At present, Haryana gets 1.62 MAF of Ravi and Beas waters. Punjab on the other hand is furthering an argument that the volume of water available in its rivers has drastically reduced over the years.

The apex court had on July 11, 2017, said that the authorities of both states remember that a decree passed by the apex court has to be respected and executed. “Our granting of time does not endow Punjab with any kind of liberty to devour time and pave the path of procrastination. On the contrary, to take a stand of amiability and amicability so that the facilitator, that is, the central government, can bring both parties together to resolve the issue,” the SC had said.

Presidential reference

Answering a presidential reference in the matter, a constitution bench of the Supreme Court had on November 10, 2016, set aside the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, a law which unilaterally terminates Punjab’s water sharing pact with Haryana. “The Punjab Act cannot be said to be in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and by virtue of the said Act, Punjab cannot nullify the judgment and decree referred to hereinabove and terminate the December 1981 agreement,” the Supreme Court had said.