M A I N   N E W S

Centre to turn to SC over water row
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 14
After several rounds of discussion with the Chief Ministers concerned and legal experts, the Centre is likely to seek fresh directions from the Supreme Court tomorrow in the ongoing case regarding the construction of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal.

The Punjab Act abrogating water-sharing accords and the various options before the Centre were discussed at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs called this evening by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and attended by Water Resources Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi.

After studying the merits and demerits of the choices, the Centre is learnt to be zeroing in on the option of approaching the Supreme Court and seeking fresh clarifications on its June 4 order regarding the construction of the SYL canal.

The Supreme Court had directed that the Centre appoint an agency for the construction of the SYL canal in Punjab and set up a high-powered committee to monitor this work. It also asked the Centre to ensure that the Punjab Government handed over this incomplete canal site to the Centrally appointed agency by July 16. The Punjab Assembly passed the Bill just before this crucial deadline, basically to circumvent the Supreme Court order.

Government officials here said the Centre had dutifully complied with two of the three Supreme Court directives. A high-powered committee was notified to monitor the work while the CPWD was entrusted with the construction of the incomplete portion of the canal. But after the passage of the Bill by the Punjab Assembly, the Centre is unable to comply with the third direction, that of handing over the canal site to the CPWD.

“We, therefore, plan to seek directions from the apex court on the third directive,” explained a senior official of the Water Resources Ministry.

Government sources said the affected states like Haryana or Rajasthan could approach the courts to seek redress.

The Centre could send this for a Presidential reference, which would then be sent to a constitutional Bench.

While it mulls over the choices, the Centre has first decided to seek fresh directions from the Supreme Court in the case. It was stated the Centre had no choice but to approach the courts.

The government sources said the legal experts consulted by the Centre had stated that the Bill passed by the Punjab Assembly was legally untenable and could be struck down by the Supreme Court.

Whatever the decision of the judiciary, Congress sources said, it would only help the Punjab Chief Minister.

By taking the initiative on this emotive issue, it he has pre-empted his political rivals. Even if the court decision goes against him, Capt Amarinder Singh will be able to project himself as a saviour of Punjab. The brewing dissidence in the Punjab Congress following the downsizing of the Cabinet and the dismal election results have been put on the backburner.

As far as the party is concerned, which has to protect the interests of Haryana in view of the impending assembly elections, it can point out that the Congress-led government had taken all possible measures to ensure justice for the state.

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