M A I N   N E W S

SC orders Centre to construct SYL Canal
Gives govt 4 weeks to set up Central agency
Tells Punjab to pay cost of suit
S S Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, June 4
In a major boost to the Haryana Government, the Supreme Court today directed the Centre to construct the unfinished portion of controversial Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal in the territory of Punjab to facilitate sharing of the Punjab rivers waters between the two states.

Allowing Haryana’s application for implementation of court’s January 15, 2002 order for construction of the SYL in the territory of Punjab, a Bench of Ms Justice Ruma Pala and Mr Justice P V Raddin in its judgement ordered the Union Government to appoint a Central Agency within four weeks for the execution of the work.

The court rejected Punjab’s counter-suit challenging the January 15, 2002, decree of the court by way of which the state was to construct the SYL by January 15, 2003. It also imposed a cost for filing the suit on Punjab, which was not specified in the order and had to be calculated by the Registry.

The court further directed the Union Government to appoint, within one month, a special committee of officials with representatives from both states, Punjab and Haryana, to supervise the construction work, which should be started as early as possible.

The Punjab Government was directed to hand over the land on which the unfinished canal was to be built, to the Central Agency within two weeks of its appointment.

Besides, the Punjab Government was ordered by the court to provide adequate security to the officials of the executing agency and the construction workers to be engaged by it.

The executing agency was directed to prepare a new map of the canal for the area where the job had to be completed on the basis of a fresh survey by keeping in mind that no damage was caused to the green belt falling in the way.

Punjab’s counsel Rupinder Singh Suri, after the pronouncement of the judgement, said that the order passed by the court has gone beyond the arguments forwarded by the parties as only the question of the maintainability of Haryana’s application was argued.

But the court did not agree with his contention and said the arguments had gone beyond this question.

Punjab, in its counter-suit, had stated that in the changed circumstances sharing of water with Haryana was not possible as the inflow in the rivers in the state had fallen from over 17 MAF to nearly 14 MAF during past two decades, while its water needs had increased with more areas coming under cultivation.

Though the court had not identified any agency to be handed over the construction work by the Centre, Haryana, in its application, had pleaded that the work be handed over to the Border Road Organisation.

Haryana, in its application, had said since Punjab had failed to implement the court’s January 15, 2002 order, the Union Government was bound to construct the canal as the Court had made it clear that if Punjab Government could not build the SYL, the Union Government would complete the project.

Punjab in its suit had also raised questions over the Rajiv-Longowal pact, which also included construction of SYL as a condition, saying that several other conditions in the 10-points agreement had not been implemented by the Centre in letter and spirit.

The Centre, in its affidavit, though had expressed its willingness to construct the canal and indicated that it had prepared a contingency plan for the job, but it had stated that without the cooperation of Punjab Government construction would not be possible.



Dismayed Punjab to review verdict on Monday
Punjab Ministry meets on June 7

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 4
Punjab has received with dismay the Supreme Court verdict on the SYL canal. A special meeting of the Punjab Council of Ministers has been convened here for Monday. Officers of the Law and Irrigation Departments will go through the judgement and prepare a position paper for the Monday meeting, said an official press note.

Sources told The Tribune that the sharing of river waters, construction and commissioning of the SYL canal and the setting up of a new tribunal in place of the Eradi Tribunal due to the changed ground realities are all part of the agenda submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office for discussion by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, when he meets the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, next week. The agenda item on this contentious issue clearly states that Punjab has no surplus water to share.

Sources said the SYL canal would be the first item on the Vidhan Sabha business agenda after the obituary references on June 14 when the House meets. A discussion is likely on June 15 and the House is expected to pass a resolution on the issue.

Capt Amarinder Singh, meanwhile, has had discussions with Mr F.S. Nariman on the judgement. A government spokesman said Punjab was not even allowed to argue its case with regard to the execution of an application filed by Haryana in the apex court.

The Punjab Chief Secretary is also scheduled to meet Advocate-General Harbhagwan Singh tomorrow to discuss the issue.

The Punjab Chief Minister has always maintained that the availability of surplus Ravi-Beas waters which was earlier assumed at 17.17 million acre feet had reduced to 14.37 million acre feet, based on the 1981-2002 flow series. The allocation of water made on prime-facie inaccurate figures would not be implementable even if the SYL canal was constructed, simply because the actual flow of water did not match with the figures assumed by the Eradi Tribunal.

Moreover, Punjab had persistently argued that Haryana had already received more water from the Sharda-Yamuna Link canal. Based on these facts, Punjab had filed a petition under Section 3 of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956, before the Ministry of Water Resources, requesting the constitution of a fresh tribunal to reassess the availability of water before the SYL canal was completed and commissioned.

That application was consequently referred by the Government of India to the Law Department, which sought opinion of Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee, who concurred with the proposal of the state government to set up a fresh tribunal under the Inter-state Water Disputes Act, 1956.

On the other hand, SAD President, Parkash Singh Badal was not convinced by what the Congress Government had to say today on the contentious issue. Talking to The Tribune he said a meeting of his party would be called shortly to discuss the fallout of the judgment. He, however, squarely blamed the Congress for this shocking development, charging it had failed to contest the case properly in the court.

Asked what the SAD would do now, Mr Badal said all aspects would be discussed at the party level. “Certainly, having lost the legal battle, political fight to protect farmers’ and state’s interests will have to be there.” He felt today’s development could result in social tensions, thanks to the successive Congress Governments political machinations in New Delhi and Chandigarh.


HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | National Capital |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |