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Punjab to file review petition in SYL case
S. S. Negi
Our Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, June 10
The Punjab Government has decided to file review petition in the Supreme Court against its June-4 judgement in the Satluj-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal case, directing the Centre to construct the channel.

“A decision has been taken at the highest level to file the review petition and the process for the same is going on by examining the judgement,” Punjab’s Advocate General Harbhagwan Singh told The Tribune here today.

Asked as to how much time the state government would take to move the apex court, he said: “The petition is being drafted in consultation with various legal experts and it will take at least four to five days.”

Admitting that the judgement against the state was “very strong”, the Advocate General said the state was hopeful of convincing the Court about its viewpoints.

He, however, declined to divulge the details about the main ground of challenge of the verdict, saying that it would be improper to talk about it before the petition was moved before the Court.

Many legal experts are of the view that it would be a difficult task for Punjab on the face of the “very strong” verdict coming against it.

The detailed analysis of the verdict makes it clear that the apex court did not agree with the Punjab Government stand that Section 14 of the Inter-State Water Dispute Act, 1956 had become irrelevant in the changed circumstances in respect of sharing of Ravi-Beas water between Punjab and Haryana and be declared ultra vires of the Constitution.

The Court said: “The challenge to Section 14 of the Act has been made without prejudice to the Punjab’s pending application under Section 5(3) of the Act” before the Tribunal.

“At least prima facie acceptable grounds in support have to be pleaded to sustain the challenge. In the absence of any such pleading, the challenge to the Constitutional validity of a statute or statutory provision is liable to be rejected,” the Bench of Ms Justice Ruma Pal and Mr Justice P.V. Reddi in the verdict has said.

Constitutional validity of Section 14 was one of the main grounds of challenge against the January 15, 2002 decree of the apex court by Punjab in its counter-suit, filed in January, 2003. It had said that provisions of Section 14 were “no longer enforceable” in the changed circumstances.

Section 14 of the 1956 Act provides for setting up of Ravi and Beas Water Tribunal for verification and adjudication of matters relating to the water share between Punjab and Haryana.

The Court said the notification of April, 1986 regarding the agreement between Punjab and Haryana, was issued under Section 14 of the Inter-State Water Dispute Act. Though Punjab did not accept the correctness of most of the findings of the Tribunal, there was no dispute raised by it about constitutionality of Section 14 at any stage, it observed.

With regard to Punjab’s plea for declaring Section 78(1) of the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966, under which Haryana was separated from Punjab, also as ultra vires, the Court has left the issue undecided, saying: “We leave open the question as to whether it is open to the State of Punjab to question the vires of the statute by which it was created.”

Under the Act, the assets of Punjab were to be divided between it and Haryana on the basis of 60:40 ratio.

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