Wednesday, February 22, 2017
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SYL has to be constructed; Punjab, Haryana must maintain law and order: SC

22 Feb 2017 | 5:37 PM

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday made it clear that the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal has to be constructed and asked the governments of Punjab and Haryana to maintain law and order in their respective state. A bench headed by Justice PC Ghose said: "We are at a stage where the decree has to be executed."

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Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 22

The Supreme Court on Wednesday made it clear that the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal has to be constructed and asked the governments of Punjab and Haryana to maintain law and order in their respective state.

A bench headed by Justice PC Ghose said: "We are at a stage where the decree has to be executed."

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It also asked the Centre to maintain surveillance and oversight in view of the impending march by INLD activists that could potentially create law and order problem.

The court's comments came after senior counsel Ram Jethmalani and RS Suri requested the bench on behalf of the Punjab government that a political solution of the problem should be attempted and the Centre should act as an arbitrator.

Responding to Jethmalani's suggestion, Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar said, "I (Centre) can't sit in judgment over the decree...If both the states approach us only then we can mediate...”

Jethmalani said the water sharing agreement was signed in 1981 and the quantity of water flow has significantly decreased and now was not possible to execute it.

At the very outset of the hearing, Jethmalani told the bench that over a lakh people planned to march into Punjab with spades to start digging at the SYL Canal construction site. This could lead to violence and it has to be stopped.

He accused the Haryana government of being complicit in it for it granted permission to hold the march.

"Let's hope good sense will prevail. Violence will not take place...Lives will not be lost," Jethmalani said.

Earlier, senior counsel Shyam Diwan said the Haryana government was committed to maintaining law and order and Punjab should also be asked to maintain law and order on their side.

The bench asked both the states to maintain status quo in terms of its earlier order and ensure there was no violence.

Jethmalani wanted the issue be heard after the poll results on March 11 but the bench fixed March 2 to hear Punjab government's arguments that the decree in favour of Haryana was incapable of being executed.

In its affidavit filed before the hearing, the Punjab government had told the Supreme Court that the land meant for constructing the SYL Canal that had been given back to the landowners could not be recovered.

In an affidavit, it said: “...the land in question having been already transferred to the landowners in obedience to the resolution of the Legislative Assembly dated 16.11.2016, the recovery of the said land from the landowners is not possible.”

The SAD-BJP government accused the Centre of abdicating its responsibility, stating the latter had failed in its mandatory duty to constitute a water tribunal for adjudication of issues raised by Punjab in its January 1, 2003, complaint.

“The Union of India is duty-bound to play the role of a mediator in inter-state water disputes. In the present case, it has not shown any proactive approach in sorting out the water issues between the two neighbouring states,” the affidavit stated.

“A fuller constitutional solution to the SYL canal is not possible unless the alleged entitlement of the applicant State of Haryana, a non-riparian, is resolved in accordance with law having regard to the changed circumstances,” the affidavit stated.

Punjab had requested the top court to direct the Centre to “immediately explore on the transfer of the Sarda waters to the Yamuna under the feasibility report prepared by the National Water Development Agency”.

It had pleaded that the Centre be directed “to create storages over the Yamuna to utilise water which is otherwise going waste and to explore alternative sources for irrigating Yamuna Basin areas, by augmenting the Yamuna flows in Haryana, particularly from the river Sarda”.

The top court had in November 2016 declared the law passed by the Punjab Assembly terminating the SYL canal water-sharing agreement with neighbouring states as unconstitutional. It had answered in the negative all four questions referred to it in a Presidential Reference.

A Constitution Bench had on November 10 ruled that Punjab could not have taken a “unilateral” decision to terminate the agreement with Haryana, HP, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi and Chandigarh on sharing of the Ravi-Beas river waters. On a plea by the Haryana Government, the top court had on November 30 last year ordered a status quo on the land acquired for the construction of canal’s stretch in Punjab and appointed the Union Home Secretary, Punjab’s Chief Secretary and the DGP as receivers.

SYL has to be constructed; Punjab, Haryana must maintain law and order: SCPolice deployed in area around the SYL canal on Ambala-Ghanaur road on Wednesday. Tribune photo
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