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Presidential Reference hearing  on Aug 2
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 31
The Presidential Reference filed under Article 143 in the Supreme Court to seek the court's opinion on the Punjab Government's enactment of the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004, will come up for hearing on August 2. The case is fixed at 10.30 a.m. on that day.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Mr Justice R.C. Lahoti, will head the five- Judge Constitutional Bench before which the case is listed on Monday. Besides Mr Justice Lahoti, four other seniormost Judges of the Supreme Court have been included in the Bench.

The Punjab's Advocate General, Mr Harbhagwan Singh, today reached Delhi to hold a conference with the legal team constituted by the Punjab Government to contest the case. Mr Harish Salve, former Solicitor- General of India will lead the team.

The state government had earlier requested Mr Soli Sorabjee, who was consulted before passing the Agreements Act by the Punjab Assembly, to lead the Punjab's legal team. But as he has accepted an appointment in the UNO, he will not now lead the team, it is learnt.

In his reference to the Supreme Court, the President, Mr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, has sought to know whether the Act passed by the Punjab Assembly is constitutionally valid and really discharged the state government from the water agreements.

The Presidential Reference has also sought the Supreme Court's opinion on whether this Act is creating any legal impediment for the Centre in complying with the apex court's July 4 directive in the ongoing SYL canal case.

It may be mentioned here that the unanimous passing of the Act by the state Assembly on July 12 had kicked up a big controversy in the political and legal circles in the country. However, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh stood his ground and refused to review the passing of the Act at any stage. He has taken the stand that the Act has been passed by the state Assembly to protect Punjab's right over river waters.

States like Haryana, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh, which felt that they had been affected by the passing of the Act, built up a lot of pressure on the Central Government to act in this connection. The Centre swung into action and opted for the Presidential Reference when Haryana and Rajasthan did not move the Supreme Court to challenge the Punjab Act.

When contacted in Delhi, Mr Harbhagan Singh, confirming the fixing of the case on August 2, said that the Punjab team was fully prepared to present its legal point of view in the apex court.

All eyes in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and even Delhi are focused on this case. As the wider and important constitutional issues are involved in this case, there is every possibility the Supreme Court may issue notice to all the Advocate Generals in the country in this connection. 
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