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SC seeks Punjab’s response on SYL canal plea
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, December 17
The Supreme Court today allowed the Punjab Government one more chance to make its stand clear on Haryana’s fresh plea, seeking construction of the controversial Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) canal by the Centre through its agency, the Border Road Organisation, under the supervision of the Central Water Commission.

Issuing notice to the Punjab Government on Haryana’s fresh application, a Bench comprising Ms Justice Ruma Pal and Mr Justice P.V. Reddi converted the state’s application into a “substantive petition”, which will form the basis for all future proceedings in the case pertaining to the unfinished work in the territory of Punjab.

The Punjab Government was given two weeks’ time to submit its reply so that the matter could be heard in the second week of January as Haryana’s counsel Shanti Bhushan pleaded for early disposal of the case.

However, the Centre, in its reply, made it emphatically clear that the Border Road Organisation (BRO) could not be assigned the work of SYL project on which Rs 700 crore had been spent. An affidavit filed by the Union Water Resources Ministry said the BRO was preoccupied with important road building works in strategic remote border areas, including Jammu and Kashmir up to 2016.

Punjab’s counsel Anil Dewan and its Advocate-General, Mr Harbhagwan Singh, submitted that since one year’s time had lapsed after the apex court’s January 15, 2003, deadline for completion of the project by the state, all the earlier applications by Haryana had become infructuous.

The Centre in its affidavit said it had drawn up a “contingency plan” to construct the SYL. But it made it clear that the work could not be started with full cooperation of Punjab as the possession of the work had to be handed over by it to the proposed Central agency.

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