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Haryana says Punjab Act unconstitutional
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 15
The Haryana Government today termed the Punjab Government’s termination of all water-sharing agreements as “unconstitutional” and “without jurisdiction.”

The passing of the Act does not “discharge Punjab from complying with the judgments, decree and order of the Supreme Court,” the affidavit filed by the Haryana Government said.

This was stated by the state government to the apex court in the Presidential reference by the Centre, which has sought the Supreme Court’s opinion on the constitutional validity of the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004.

The affidavit termed the Act as lacking in legislative competence and a coloured legislation, inconsistent with the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966, and the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956, both being Central Acts.

“Inter-state agreements cannot be retracted unilaterally. Punjab is not discharged from its obligations and duties under the judgment and order of the Supreme Court passed on June 4, 2004,” the Haryana Government affidavit said.

It said the Punjab Act of 2004 violated the provisions of the Constitution as well as the basic principles and tenets concerning federalism and rule of law enshrined in the Constitution.

The Act lacked legislative competence and was a coloured piece of legislation intended only to project a flimsy legal cover for Punjab to continue with its defiant and contumacious conduct against the apex court and the Constitution, the affidavit said.

The Haryana Government said the Act was inconsistent with Section 78 of the Punjab Re-organization Act, 1966, under which Parliament had sole and exclusive authority to reorganise the states and make provisions for the division of assets and liabilities between successor states.

And as per the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956, no State is competent to legislate in respect of water disputes or water-sharing agreements and hence the Punjab Act was inconsistent with the Section 14 of the Act of 1956, the affidavit said.

Moreover, the Ravi Beas Tribunal, constituted under Section 14 of the Inter-States Water Disputes Act, 1956, and the state of Punjab had submitted before the tribunal and Punjab had challenged the validity of Agreements of 1955 and 1981 before the tribunal and the contentions of Punjab were rejected by the tribunal.

“It is not open to Punjab to pass legislative judgment as an appellate authority over these findings,” the affidavit said.

The state government said inter state agreements came into being by reason of negotiation and the consent of all the parties thereto.

“These can’t be resiled from or terminated by one of the party states, much less abrogated with retrospective effect as if they never existed. Haryana had stated that the purported termination of the Agreements of 1955 and 1981 by Punjab Act is ineffective in law and impossible under the Constitution,” the affidavit said.

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