M A I N   N E W S

Rajasthan HC tells BBMB to take over 3 headworks
Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 2
The Jaipur Bench of the Rajasthan High Court today ordered Punjab to hand over control of the three headworks on the Bhakhra Nangal and Beas projects to the Bhakhra Beas Management Board (BBMB).

As per the order pronounced this morning, the BBMB would be responsible for the administration, maintenance and operation of the irrigation works and head-works at Ropar, Harike and Ferozepore.

The order was passed on a petition filed by a 72-year-old farmer of Jaipur, seeking directions so that the share of residents of Rajasthan in river waters could be safe-guarded through strict compliance of the Punjab Re-organisation Act, 1966.

The Petitioner, Mr D.M. Singhvi, has claimed that the Punjab Government was allowing the BBMB to operate the headworks with the sole purpose of preventing water from flowing into Rajasthan. Incidentally, the petitioner is a retired Chief Engineer of the Irrigation Department, Rajasthan.

He had filed the petition after the passage of the Punjab Termination of Agreements Bill 2004 unanimously by the Punjab Assembly last year.

Mr Singhvi had stated that successive agreements between the states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, etc, allocated different quantities of Ravi-Beas waters to these states. The last agreement that fixed distribution of the surplus water of Ravi-Beas was inked on December 31, 1981, which allocated 8.60 MAF out of the total of 17.17 MAF surplus waters to Rajasthan.

He has said among the functions of the BBMB is to regulate supply of water from the Ravi and Beas to the states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, but the Punjab Government was interferring in the functioning of the BBMB, leading to fears that the supply of the allocated water would be stopped.

Disposing of the writ, the Bench of Mr Justice K.S. Rathore and Mr Justice S.K. Sharma directed the Centre and the BBMB to comply with the order within a month.

“Water is the property of the people of India and is dedicated to their use. Whenever and wherever this fundamental right is infringed, the court is duty bound to intervene,” the judges noted.

In its order, the Bench also dismissed objections raised by the Punjab government with regard to maintainability of the petition on grounds of territorial jurisdiction, holding that the court had the jurisdiction to protect the fundamental rights of the inhabitants of Rajasthan.

The court also ruled that the subject matter raised in the petition was not barred under Section 11 of the Inter State River Water Disputes Act, 1956, read with Article 262 of the Constitution. It also disagreed with Punjab’s contention that the disputes raised in the petition fell within the ambit of Article 131 of the Constitution and was thus not maintainable.

The Bench noted that the petitioner had only sought a direction for implementation of Section 79 of the 1966 Act under which Punjab did not have any right to keep control of the Headworks.

The court noted that entire areas and population in Jodhpur and the districts of Churu, Sriganganagar, Hanumangarh, Bikaner, Jaisalmer and parts of Barmer were famine-stricken and depended upon their supply of drinking water for human and animal population on the waters of the Indira Gandhi Canal Project. “Therefore, control of regulation structures should be under the BBMB,” it said.



Punjab to challenge order in SC
Maneesh Chhibber
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, May 2
The Punjab Government is likely to move the Supreme Court against today’s order of the Rajasthan High Court.

According to sources, Advocate-General Harbhagwan Singh has already been asked to leave for New Delhi tomorrow morning to hold consultations with top experts.

Legal experts associated with the case maintained that the Punjab Government had a strong case. “Our preliminary objection was that in cases of water disputes, only the Supreme Court has the jurisdiction to adjudicate. But, our application in this regard was dismissed. More so, the High Court should have waited for the replies of the Union of India and the governments of Punjab and Rajasthan,” said the lawyer.

The government may retain the services of senior lawyer A.K. Ganguly to plead its case in the SC. Mr Ganguly had represented Punjab in the Rajasthan High Court.


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