The Pun­jab-haryana Wa­ter Dis­pute .............................................................

Haryana Wa­ter Dis­pute

Libertatem Magazine - - Content Content - By Prith­wish Roy

The Supreme Court in a five-mem­ber con­sti­tu­tion bench headed by Jus­tice Anil R Dave in­val­i­dated the Pun­jab Ter­mi­na­tion of Agree­ments Act, 2004 – the Act by which Pun­jab had ter­mi­nated its pact with Haryana, Hi­machal Pradesh, Ra­jasthan, Jammu and Kash­mir and Delhi for the shar­ing the Ravi-beas river wa­ters.

The judg­ment in ef­fect man­dated Pun­jab to com­ply with the courts pre­vi­ous two judg­ments on com­ple­tion of the Sut­lej-ya­muna Link (here­inafter SYL) canal.

THE HIS­TORY OF THE SYL CANAL FEUD:

For a bet­ter con­text of the rul­ing, it’s ad­van­ta­geous to have a his­tor­i­cal un­der­stand­ing as to what ex­actly the SYL is­sue is and where it all started.

The SYL canal was built be­tween Rivers Sut­lej and Ya­muna to pro­vide wa­ter to Haryana from the Pun­jab side of the wa­ter bod­ies. In 1966, when Haryana was carved out from Pun­jab, a cen­tral high level panel in 1971, came up with the rec­om­men­da­tion to share Pun­jab’s wa­ter with Haryana.

The cen­ter later is­sued no­ti­fi­ca­tion in­struct­ing the SYL to be con­structed. While Haryana con­structed its share of the canal, Pun­jab, how­ever, was not ready to build it. Af­ter pres­sure from the Cen­tral and Haryana Gov­ern­ment in 1985 a “Set­tle­ment Agree­ment” was signed by the then PM Ra­jiv Gandhi and Akali Dal Pres­i­dent Sant Harc­hand Singh Lon­gowal how­ever, the con­struc­tions never met the set dead­lines and the sit­u­a­tion never im­proved in spite of sev­eral or­ders from the Wa­ter Tri­bunal to fin­ish the con­struc­tion ex­pe­di­tiously. The mat­ter took its toll in 2004 when the then Chief Min­is­ter of Pun­jab Cap­tain Amarinder Singh ter­mi­nated the wa­ter shar­ing vide the Pun­jab Ter­mi­na­tion of Agree­ments Act, 2004.

The present rul­ing by the Supreme Court was made af­ter a pres­i­den­tial ref­er­ence was sent to the Court re­gard­ing the con­sti­tu­tional va­lid­ity of the Pun­jab Ter­mi­na­tion of Agree­ments Act, 2004.

CON­TENTIONS OF THE STATES:

The con­tentions pleaded be­fore the Court by the State of Haryana was that the Pun­jab Ter­mi­na­tion of Agree­ments Act, 2004 was an ef­fort by the state of Pun­jab to by­pass the judg­ment on com­ple­tion of the SYL canal. Pun­jab en­acted an­other law this year, to give back to the farm­ers the land ac­quired from them for com­ple­tion of the SYL canal and the state of Haryana fur­ther con­tended that this law was an ef­fort to ren­der the pres­i­den­tial ref­er­ence in­valid.

The state of Pun­jab on the other hand con­tended that an ef­fect of the 2004 Act was that the pre­vi­ous judg­ments on the SYL canal is­sue was in­valid and hence, the 2016 law to re­turn the land ac­quired from the farmer back to them did not vi­o­late any court or­der.

DE­VEL­OP­MENTS POST THE JUDG­MENT:

The judg­ment was met with wide­spread po­lit­i­cal protest. Capt. Amarinder Singh re­signed from his Lok Sabha seat and all the party MLAS re­signed from their assem­bly seats as mark of protest against the al­leged “in­jus­tice meted out to the peo­ple of the state.”

The Chief Min­is­ter Prakash Singh Badal while stat­ing the judg­ment to be un­wel­come termed the res­ig­na­tion of Capt. Amarinder Singh Badal as a po­lit­i­cal stunt while Deputy Chief Min­is­ter Sukhbir Singh Badal even be­fore the judg­ment had stated that even in case of an ad­verse judg­ment he would not let any out­side el­e­ments en­ter the state and “take even a drop from Pun­jab”.

Mean­while, in Haryana the de­ci­sion was wel­come with much aplomb and the in­cum­bent Chief Min­is­ter Manohar Lal hailed the per­sis­tent ef­forts made by the present state gov­ern­ment for re­solv­ing the is­sue. The khap lead­ers of Haryana went on to an­nounce that they would dis­con­nect Pun­jab from New Delhi by block­ing all con­nec­tiv­ity by rail and road if the Pun­jab gov­ern­ment re­fused to abide by the de­ci­sion of the Supreme Court.

RAMIFICATIONTHE UP­COM­ING OF ELEC­TION:THE JUDG­MENT ON

The im­pli­ca­tion of the or­der on the up­com­ing Pun­jab elec­tion is man­i­fold.

It was the then in­cum­bent Chief Min­is­ter of Pun­jab, Capt. Amarinder Singh who was re­spon­si­ble for the Pun­jab Ter­mi­na­tion of Agree­ments Act, 2004. And, in­val­i­da­tion of the Act may au­gur well for the other par­ties in con­tention. It is in­ter­est­ing to note that in 2004, Capt. Amarinder Singh in an act of re­bel­lion had de­fied party chief So­nia Gandhi and the then Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh while en­act­ing the act and today this might just be the mileage the Congress Party would need to re­claim the state.

The stand taken by the BJP at the cen­ter is neu­tral how­ever, the Naren­dra Modi led party did not shy away from point­ing out the fact that the 2004 Act was in vi­o­la­tion of two pre­vi­ous Supreme Court judg­ments on the very same is­sue. The ploy of BJP may not au­gur well for its chances in the up­com­ing elec­tions as it threat­ens its al­liance with the Akali Dal in Pun­jab, how­ever, it is to be kept in mind that the BJP is the rul­ing party in the state of Haryana and hence stay­ing to­tally neu­tral on the is­sue was never an op­tion. The Aam Aadmi Party, who se­cured their only seats to the Lok Sabha elec­tion from Pun­jab, is still grap­pling with the nu­ances of the is­sues and is yet to take a firm stand on the same.

CON­CLU­SION:

The court af­ter di­rect­ing to main­tain a sta­tus quo on the is­sue ap­pointed three re­ceivers in con­nec­tion to the case and has sought a re­port from them on the next hear­ing of the is­sue sched­uled on 15th De­cem­ber on the sit­u­a­tions in re­la­tion to the land in­volved in the SYL canal. Se­nior Supreme Court lawyer, Mr. Har­ish Salve, ap­pear­ing on be­half of the state of Pun­jab on the SYL is­sue was met by the Chief Min­is­ter Prakash Singh Badal stat­ing that the is­sue was not merely one per­tain­ing to a le­gal is­sue but was one that in­volved emo­tions.

For­mer Chief Min­is­ter of the state and the man be­hind the Pun­jab Ter­mi­na­tion of Agree­ments Act, 2004, Capt. Amarinder Singh has warned that the judg­ment on the SYL canal can lead to the resur­gence of Khal­is­tani ter­ror­ism in the state be­cause of pos­si­ble de­nial of wa­ter to res­i­dents of Malwa and other re­gions of south­ern Pun­jab which have a past his­tory of vi­o­lence.

The de­bate sur­round­ing the judg­ment may go on but what is to be seen is the ex­e­cu­tion of the same. Given the le­gal and emo­tional per­spec­tive at­tached to the SYL canal it is well and truly a very sen­si­tive is­sue and any judge­ment was bound to come with both wel­come and un­wel­come re­sponses. The SC hear­ing on De­cem­ber 15 will in­di­cate how deep the wa­ter is and any pos­si­ble in­stances of vi­o­lence or any form of op­po­si­tion to­wards the judg­ment by the state of Pun­jab, which seems likely at this stage, is how the Supreme Court clamps down upon them. Ar­guably, this judg­ment may de­cide the fate of the up­com­ing Pun­jab elec­tions and in the face of it the con­duct of the par­ties with di­a­met­ri­cally dif­fer­ent opin­ions on the is­sue is to be ob­served.

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