Obstructed watercourse, even if temporary, has to be restored: Punjab and Haryana High Court : The Tribune India

Obstructed watercourse, even if temporary, has to be restored: Punjab and Haryana High Court

Obstructed watercourse, even if temporary, has to be restored: Punjab and Haryana High Court


Tribune News Service

Saurabh Malik

Chandigarh, January 24

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled it is incumbent upon the authorities concerned to order the restoration of even a temporary watercourse after coming to the conclusion that it has been obstructed. Justice Vikas Bahl of the High Court also made it clear that restoration was required to be ordered in case of its demolition, even if there was another watercourse for irrigation purposes.

The assertion by Justice Bahl came on a petition seeking the quashing of the impugned order dated July 26, 2021, passed by Hisar Subdivisional Canal Officer and other related orders directing the restoration of dismantled watercourse in accordance with the previous running location for a year or two crops. The judgment is significant as alteration or demolition of watercourse for irrigation was one of the major causes of conflict in the agriculture sector.

Appearing before Justice Bahl’s Bench, the counsel for the petitioner contended the re-establishment of watercourse, given on a brotherhood basis to the respondent-applicants seeking its restoration, could not be ordered since they had an alternative. It was argued that another permanent watercourse was in existence through which the respondent-applicant’s land could be irrigated.

After hearing the rival contentions and going through the relevant laws, Justice Bahl asserted Section 24 of the Haryana Canal and Drainage Act specifically provided that any affected person might apply to the Subdivisional Canal Officer for directing watercourse restoration in case a person damaged, demolished, altered, enlarged or obstructed the same, including a temporary one.

The Canal Officer, on receipt of the application, was required to order restoration after holding an inquiry and serving notice to the person responsible at his own cost. The restoration would not be for a period exceeding a year in case of a temporary watercourse.

Justice Bahl added: “Sub Section 3 further provides that in case such a person fails to the satisfaction of the Subdivisional Canal Officer to restore the watercourse, which includes the temporary watercourse, to its original condition within the period specified in the notice served to him, the Subdivisional Canal Officer can order the same to be restored to its original condition and recover the cost incurred in respect of such restoration from the defaulting person”.

Referring to the facts of the case in hand, Justice Bahl added that the petitioner’s counsel had not referred to any provision of law or judgment showing restoration ought not to be ordered in case of another watercourse despite the existence and demolition of the first one. There was no occasion to interfere with the orders passed by the authorities even if the argument on the availability of another watercourse was taken at face value.

Cost can be recovered

If a person fails to restore watercourse to its original condition, Sub-Divisional Canal Officer can order the same to be restored to its original condition and recover the cost incurred. Justice Vikas Bahl

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