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Punjab files review plea against SYL judgement
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 3
The Punjab Government today filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against its June 4 judgement directing the Union Government to construct the controversial Sutlej-Yamuna link (SYL) canal even as its construction was yesterday entrusted to the Central Public Works Department.

Punjab's Advocate-General (AG), Mr Harbhagwan Singh, who arrived here especially for filing the review petition, told The Tribune that the apex court's judgement had been challenged mainly on the ground that it had "gone beyond the arguments addressed to the court by senior counsel F. S. Nariman”. Looking at the fate of various review petitions in all important matters in the recent past, it can be seen that most of these have been rejected. Yet, Punjab Government counsel expressed the hope that they would be able to convince the court that their viewpoints had not been properly addressed in the verdict.

According to the rules, a review petition is placed for hearing before the same Bench as has passed the judgement in a particular case. Legal experts say that in the review petition the Bench only considers if there is any error of facts or law.

A Bench of Ms Justice Ruma Pal and Mr Justice P. V. Reddi in its June 4 verdict had dismissed Punjab’s counter suit challenging the January 15, 2002, decree against it for the construction of the SYL canal and allowed Haryana’s application for the execution of the work by the Union Government.

However, Mr Harbhagwan Singh said the Punjab Government had a strong case as it had been pointed out in the review petition that the court had only heard arguments on the “maintainability” of Punjab’s suit challenging the January 15, 2002 decree. “Though arguments on Haryana’s application for execution of the January 15, 2002, order had never been advanced, yet the court directed the construction of the canal by the Centre,” the Punjab AG contended.

Among the important points raised by Punjab were that the adjudication of the water dispute between two states was beyond the jurisdiction of the court under Article 262 of the Constitution as this power had been strictly assigned to the Inter-State Water Disputes Tribunal, which is still seized of the issue of sharing Ravi-Beas waters between Punjab and Haryana.

The court in its judgement had made it clear that the construction of the canal had nothing to do with the water dispute between Punjab and Haryana, but the Punjab Government in its review petition said the two issues could not be separated as the “construction of the SYL canal essentially raises a water dispute, which could only be adjudicated by the tribunal.” In support of its argument, the state cited the apex court’s own ruling in this regard in the Almati dam case.

It also pointed out that as per the “established principle” of a basin state’s right, Punjab was entitled to the “first use” of the river water. “Since Haryana is neither a basin state nor has any riparian right, it has no legal claim over the Ravi-Beas waters,” Mr Harbhagwan Singh said.

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