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SYL: Punjab can’t violate the statute

As Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan fall in the Indus basin, Punjab alone is not the rightful owner of the Ravi water. An agreement was reached between Punjab and Haryana on March 24, 1976, for sharing of this water. Being aware of Haryana's right, Punjab started the construction of the 122-km-long SYL canal in 1980 for transporting Haryana's share of water up to its border. Punjab received Rs 700 crore for this task from Haryana.

At Haryana’s request, the Centre had issued a notification on March 24, 1976, allocating a share of water to Haryana from the Ravi-Beas rivers. On Dec 31, 1981, Punjab had entered into an agreement with Haryana to settle the SYL dispute and the respective shares of water. Punjab also issued a White Paper on April 23, 1982, appreciating the agreement of Dec 31, 1981.

Also, a clause in the Rajiv Longowal Accord of July 24, 1985 envisages the completion of the SYL canal by Punjab by August 15, 1986. This was followed up by setting up of the Eradi Tribunal which gave its report on Jan 30, 1987. By 1990, bowing to political pressure, Punjab stopped the construction of the SYL canal though 90 per cent work was completed by then. This forced Haryana to file a suit in the Supreme Court which issued a fiat on Jan 15, 2002.

 

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Is it legally permissible for any party to the dispute to claim that it is not bound by the Supreme Court directive? If the apex court’s fiat is not followed, what will happen to the nation? Clearly, it is settled law that no party to a dispute, which has been resolved by the apex court, can repudiate the court decision.

A state legislature cannot affect the rights of people of another state. Haryana has been declared by the law of the land to possess certain rights. How can the Punjab Assembly divest it by a retrospective legislation?

R.S. MITTAL, Advocate, Punjab & Haryana, High Court, Chandigarh

II

Whether the Punjab Chief Minister has enacted legislation to outsmart his political rivals in the Opposition and in his own party or not, this controversial move is fraught with serious constitutional and legal implications. One Chief Minister is deciding what is just and unjust and, in the process, the authority of institutions like the Supreme Court seem to have been undermined.

There is an impression that Haryana has been unduly favoured. The Punjab Assembly has undone the injustice. Section 5 of the Act fully protects current utilisation of the Ravi, the Beas and the Sutlej by the neighbouring States. May be, if the neighbouring states do not behave, this section can be deleted because the Punjab Assembly is “competent to do that also.”

Legal experts are also not unaware of the fact that unilateral nullification of the settlement and circumventing the judgment of the Supreme Court under the garb of “legislature competence” will not stand the legal scrutiny. The Punjab Government’s legal experts do feel that if the occasion arises, this piece of legislation is bound to be declared null and void by the Supreme Court. Then why this legislation? The only possible explanation is — delay the inevitable.

Gurinder Pal Singh, Advocate, Punjab & Haryana High Court, Chandigarh

III

Having lived in Punjab during the period of militancy, I knew how it had affected the people there. The main cause of the uprising was this very SYL issue. Water volumes in the rivers have changed a lot after 1981 when it was measured last. So why follow it? Clearly, 23 years are long enough to change such reports.

The Supreme Court is actually punishing Punjab for having delayed the matter. But why should this affect the interests of the people? Punjab is pitted against the Supreme Court while the Centre is sitting pretty.

Apparently, monsoon has failed this year. If Punjab gives away the river waters, how will it irrigate its own farms? If the court order is followed, Haryana will flourish at the cost of Punjab. Water tables are going down daily and this judgement will hit Punjab hard.

Capt Amarinder Singh’s action is just to protect the interests of Punjab. The Termination Act is only symbolic; it will make the deaf ears of the Centre and the judiciary hear something from Punjab’s voice.

Puneet Batra, Pune

IV

According to international law, the riparian states have the right over the river waters flowing through their territories. But when it comes to Punjab, be it the reorganisation of the states on linguistic basis, the creation of Punjabi-speaking states, the inclusion of Punjabi-speaking areas in it or awarding Chandigarh city to Punjab, successive Congress governments have always discriminated against Punjab. For all the disputes and tensions between Punjab and Haryana, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s policies are responsible.

The Supreme Court has clarified in its judgement regarding the completion of the uncompleted portion of the SYL canal. But little has been said regarding the quantum of water to be released in the canal. Since the Centre has taken the matter to the Supreme Court, we should wait for the court orders.

Major NARINDER SINGH JALLO (retd), Mohali

V

The Punjab Reorganisation Act of 1966 was borne out of political expediency. If Haryana and Himachal wish to follow Punjab's way and decide to reverse this Act, where will be the end of such immature, unilateral and political moves? Punjab's latest action is purely political.

Since the implementation of the Punjab Reorganisation Act, Himachal Pradesh has been a victim of circumstances. The state could not be given its due and justice has not been done. As this Act is the bone of contention among the neighbouring states, I suggest its abrogation and merger of all the three states into a unified Maha Punjab.

RAJINDER RANA, Patlander (HP)

He is welcome, but...

This has reference to A.S. Prashar's report on Bachan Singh, popularly known as the “Carwala Baba” (July 12). Lions Club Chandigarh Central has been managing the Old Age Home in Sector 15 since April 1999. This home is free for destitute old persons. Bachan Singh has never approached us in the last five years. However, after reading the report, we met him and asked him to join the Home but he refused.

Whenever he approaches us, we will try to accommodate him depending upon the availability of space.

SANJEEV GUPTA, PRO, Lions Club, Chandigarh Central

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