M A I N   N E W S

Punjab has few legal options, feel experts
Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 4
Today's decision of the Supreme Court of India (SC) allowing Haryana's plea for expeditious construction of that part of the Satluj-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal which falls in Punjab could well mark the end of the road for Punjab in terms of legal options.

The decades-old SYL Canal case, in which the SC on January 15, 2002 had ordered Punjab to complete the remaining portion of the canal within one year's time, has seen many ups and downs.

While former Advocate -Generals of Punjab, who were associated with the case, maintain that there is little the Punjab Government can do as further legal recourse in the matter, the present Advocate-General (AG), Mr Harbhagwan Singh, says that "all possibilities" will be considered by the government.

"We will also talk to out advocates-on-record, including leading lawyer Fali S. Nariman, to take their views. I think, we will file a review petition in the Supreme Court," Mr Harbhagwan Singh told The Tribune.

Asked if there was any single big factor that made the SC decide the case in Haryana's favour, the AG said it was the action of the then Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in accepting money from the Haryana Government to construct the canal.

He also claimed that the order of the Supreme Court had not taken into consideration the Punjab Government's objections to the execution application of the Haryana Government.

However, his Haryana counterpart, Senior Advocate Ashok Aggarwal, asserted that there is nothing that Punjab can do in the matter now. "Already Punjab has misused the legal process too much. The case has fairly and fully settled in our favour. It is now a matter of days when work will re-start. They have to do it," Mr Aggarwal asserted.

Former Punjab AG Hardev Singh Mattewal also agreed that Punjab has few options left. "I think the energies of the Punjab Government should be focused on retaining its rightful share of water. Haryana, which is not a riparian state, will find it difficult to force Punjab to give water to it. Having a canal built is meaningless unless the water dispute is settled," he said.

Mr Mattewal claimed that the Rajiv-Longowal Accord and the decision of the Darbara Singh government to withdraw the civil suit under the River Water Disputes Act are the main reasons for the reverses suffered by Punjab in the case.

Mr Manmohan Lal Sarin, former Punjab AG, observed that Punjab will finally have to yield in the matter. "The SC has very categorically upheld the contention of Haryana in the matter. But the water dispute will be another long story," he added.

Independent experts also say that Punjab should now concentrate on the issue of river water share.

"The SYL Canal issue has been settled finally by the SC. There is nothing that the Punjab Government can do to make the SC reverse its decision," remarked Senior Advocate Hira Lal Sibal, a constitution expert.

Mr Sibal, however, observed that the actual construction could lead to some law and order problem. "The Union Government will have to be ready for all eventualities," he said.


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