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Centre moves SC on SYL
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 15
The Centre today moved the Supreme Court for fresh direction on the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue after finding itself in a piquant situation to implement the court order for constructing the canal in the wake of Punjab unilaterally terminating all water accords since 1981, including the sharing of the Ravi-Beas waters with Haryana and Rajasthan.

The Union Government, which was supposed to take possession of the land of the unfinished portion of the SYL canal from Punjab by tomorrow as per the Supreme Courtís June 4 judgement, filed an application in the apex court registry, a day after the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs took a decision in this regard.

The Centre had been finding itself in a difficult situation to implement the order in the light of the new developments.

The filing counsel of the Centre refused to divulge any details about the grounds raised in the application and copies of it were not served to the counsel of Punjab and Haryana Governments, the contesting parties.

The Central Government counsel said it would not be proper to divulge the details before the matter was heard by the court.

He, however, said the Chief Justice of India had been requested by the government to dispose of the matter expeditiously.

Since the Union Government had handed over the construction work to the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) as the court had asked it to identify a central agency within four weeks and to take possession of the land within two weeks thereafter, the deadline for transfer of the land by Punjab expires tomorrow.

The Centre, believed to be unhappy with the Punjab Government for enacting the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004 just before it was supposed to hand over the construction site to the central agency, is understood to have expressed its inability to implement the court order in the changed scenario.

The apex court is still to decide on a review petition of the Punjab Government, in which it has challenged the verdict on the ground that the June 4 judgement had gone beyond the arguments addressed to the court in the case.

The Central Government counsel are expected to make a special mention about the filing of the application tomorrow in the court with a request for its early hearing.

The Act for annulling the water sharing accords with the neighbouring states has allegedly been enacted by Punjab to circumvent the Supreme Court verdict. Punjab has claimed that its implementation will spell doom for the farmers of the state as there are no surplus waters in Ravi and Beas to be shared with the neighbouring states, which did not have any riparian right.

Punjab had contended that Haryana, which had been getting 4.33 MAF water from the Sutlej and 1.62 MAF from the Ravi-Beas through the existing system, had been getting sufficient waters from the Yammuna and the Yamuna-Sharda link system, and therefore, there was no need to construct the SYL.

Punjab had justified its decision on terminating the accord with Haryana and Rajasthan by getting the new law enacted in the Assembly on July 12 on the ground that the inflow of waters in the Ravi-Beas had gone down to 14.37 MAF from 17.17 MAF about two decades ago.

The Amarinder Singh government had contended that the accords with Haryana and Punjab on sharing of the waters would result in a vast area of Punjab being deprived of the irrigation facilities as the agreement provided for transfer of 8.60 MAF and 4.22 MAF of the Ravi-Beas waters to Rajasthan and Haryana, respectively, even when there was no surplus water in these rivers.
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