Riverwaters: State in legal vortex for decades

CHANDIGARH: The legal validity of the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004 is not only the case being faced by the state with regard to river waters in the Supreme Court and elsewhere.

Riverwaters: State in legal vortex for decades

editorial@tribune.com

Sarbjit Dhaliwal

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 3

The legal validity of the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004 is not only the case being faced by the state with regard to river waters in the Supreme Court and elsewhere.

There is virtually a mountain of cases burdening the state since decades. In fact, for the past about five decades or since its reorganization in 1966, Punjab is knotted in a maze of legal battles. On sharing of river waters and on the issue of the control of certain head works, not only Haryana but Rajasthan is also a litigant against Punjab. Likewise, Punjab had also filed cases on various matters related to the distribution of river waters and attendant issues.

The failure of the Centre to resolve the inter-state issues over the years has kept states, especially Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan busy in litigation at various High Courts and the Supreme Court. Not only in court, the state witnessed a long bout of violent agitation which took a fierce turn on the issue of SYL construction in the early 80’s.

The Presidential Reference regarding the Punjab Termination of the Agreements Act, 2004, is listed for next hearing on March 8. All water sharing agreements with the neighboring states were terminated by passing a law when Capt Amarinder Singh was CM in 2004. Because of this measure, the process to complete the construction of the SYL canal was stalled.

Another case that is pending in the SC is a suit praying for the direction to the Union Government to constitute an appropriate Tribunal under Section 4(1) of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956, to adjudicate the disputes relating to the equitable distribution of Ravi and Beas waters as raised by Punjab in its complaint in January, 2003.

One writ petition is pending in the Delhi High Court in which the state has appealed for setting aside the constitution of the Eradi Tribunal. This petition has been adjourned by the High Court till further orders as it is awaiting the decision on the Presidential Reference. Then there are proceedings before the Eradi Tribunal, which are in abeyance in view of the Presidential Reference.

A Special Leave Petition is pending in the Apex court against the decision of the Rajasthan High Court pertaining to the handing over the head works of Harike, Ropar and Ferozepur to the BBMB.

Another case is with regard to the Hansi-Butana canal in the apex court. The Punjab Government has sought the dismantling of this canal as it has apprehended that the embankments of this canal would block the sheet flow of flood water of the Ghaggar river and Patiala nadi thus submerging vast tract of land in Punjab area.

In one case, Punjab has challenged Sections 78 and 79 of the Punjab Reorganization Act, 1966 appealing the Supreme Court to declare these sections ultra vires.

There is another case in which Haryana has filed a case regarding the handing over the control of Harike, Ferozepur and Ropar. In another case, Haryana has sought legal right in Thien Dam, Shahpur Kandi Project, UBDC-II, Anandpur Sahib Hydel Channel and Mukerian Hydel and has demanded share in the power generated by these projects. Similar case has been filed by Rajasthan Government. Besides it, there are certain other cases pending for adjudication in courts.

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