Sutlej Yamuna link canal
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
Source: The Hindu
1. The Hindu, March 12, 2016
2. The Hindu, November 11, 2016
Tracing the dispute
The dispute over the rivers can be traced back to Indus Water Treaty of 1960 between India and Pakistan, allowing the former “free and unrestricted use” of Ravi, Beas and Sutlej.
The SYL canal, the foundation for which was laid way back in 1982, was to link the Sutlej and Yamuna rivers in Punjab and Haryana, but the project never saw the light of the day as in the 1990s — amid the rise in terrorism — water sharing became a sensitive issue. Terrorists even gunned down officials and workers involved in the construction of the SYL canal in a bid to halt the project.
Subsequently, Haryana was carved out of Punjab through the Punjab Re-organisation Act of 1966. The Centre went on to allot Haryana with 3 M.A.F. quantity of water under a notification issued in March 1976. To implement this notification and for water to flow into the State, Haryana began its construction of SYL Canal the same year while Punjab delayed it till the early 1980s.
The 1981 agreement saw the States mutually agree to the re-allocation of water, this time taking into consideration the needs of Haryana. SYL canal was supposed to be completed in the next two years.
However, work came to stop after militant attacks on senior canal staffers.
In 1996, Haryana approached the Supreme Court for early completion of the canal. In 2002, Supreme Court ordered Punjab to complete the canal in a year. A subseuent suit filed by Punjab against the canal was dismissed in June 2004.
Punjab Assembly responded by passing the 2004 Act, terminating all its obligations under the 1981 Act despite the Supreme Court judgments.
Apprehending trouble, then President A.P.J Kalam sought the Supreme Court's opinion on the 2004 Act under Article 143 (1) of the Constitution.
Punjab and Haryana are pitched for a bitter face-off as both States have hardened their stance on the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal, the focal point of a water-sharing dispute.
The Haryana government had filed a petition in the Supreme Court for an early hearing on the presidential reference in the SYL case which had been pending till November 2016.
Presidential reference sought SC view in 2004
Ten days after the then Punjab government enacted a law terminating the 1981 RaviBeas river water agreement with Haryana and Rajasthan, the UPA on July 22, 2004 sent a presidential reference seeking an early opinion from the Supreme Court on the validity of the state law.
The reference was sent by then President A P J Abdul Kalam to the SC for an expeditious opinion to quell possible litigation in several forums, including the SC and the high court, against the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004.
The SC had issued notices to the Centre, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and NCT Delhi through their chief secretaries on August 2, 2004. But neither the Centre nor the state governments made any meaningful effort for an expeditious hearing on the reference.
The first meaningful hearing, after the issuance of notices, took place on February 29 this year, after nearly 12 years. A five-judge bench headed by Justice A R Dave concluded hearing and reserved verdict on May 12 2016. The judgment was pronounced after six months on November 10 2016.
Punjab Termination of Water Agreements Act 2004, unconstitutional: SC/ 2016
The Hindu, November 11, 2016
The dispute over the rivers can be traced back to Indus Water Treaty of 1960 between India and Pakistan.
SC sounds the death-knell for Punjab farmers promised SYL canal land
Sounding the death-knell on the hopes of thousands of Punjab farmers set to re-claim their lands acquired for the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal and triggering a political crisis in the poll-bound State, the Supreme Court declared that Punjab reneged on its promise to share the waters of rivers Ravi and Beas with neighbouring States like Haryana by unilaterally enacting the controversial Punjab Termination of Water Agreements Act of 2004.
A five-judge Constitution Bench led by Justice Anil R. Dave gave its opinion on a Presidential Reference made to it twelve years ago, on July 22, 2004, questioning the constitutional validity of the Act.
The apex court concluded that the Act was illegally designed to terminate a December 31, 1981 agreement entered into among Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan to re-allocate the waters of Ravi and Beas in “overall national interest and for optimum utilisation of the waters”. The SYL Canal was a product of this 1981 agreement.
By introducing the 2004 Act, the State defied two back-to-back apex court verdicts, pronounced in 2002 and 2004. The first one had directed Punjab to complete the SYL Canal in a year. The second judgment had ordered the formation of a central agency to “take control” of Punjab's work on the canal.
In short, the Supreme Court said Punjab acted as “a judge in its own cause”.
"The State of Punjab exceeded its legislative power in proceeding to nullify the decree of this court and therefore, the Punjab Act of 2004 cannot be said to be a validly enacted legislation,” Justice Dave wrote for the Bench, also comprising Justices P.C. Ghose, S.K. Singh, A.K. Goel and Amitava Roy.
Referring to its 2006 Mullaperiyar dam judgment, the Supreme Court held that a State Legislative Assembly “cannot through legislation do an act in conflict with the judgment of the highest court which has attained finality”.
The opinion, which may see a rise in border tensions with neighbouring Haryana, termed the enactment of the Punjab Satluj Yamuna Link Canal Land (Transfer of Proprietary Rights) Bill in 2016 by the current Akali Dal government as “unwarranted developments” when the Presidential Reference was still pending in the Supreme Court. The Bench noted that the Punjab government had returned possession of some of the acquired land to its landlords and used earth-movers to destroy the still under-construction canal.
The 2016 Bill, which is yet to receive the assent of the Governor, assumed to give back over 5000 acres of land acquired for the canal back to the Punjab farmers. The apex court opined that this Bill would have clearly violated the 1981 water-sharing agreement had it been made law.
Punjab denotifies SYL land again in Nov 2016
All 5,376 Acres Returned Free Of Cost To 4,980 Farmers
Continuing with its defiance of the Supreme Court ruling on the Satluj Yamuna Link Canal, the Punjab government on Nov 15, 2016 denotified the land acquired for the canal from farmers and gave it back to them. All 5,376 acres were returned free of cost at a time when assembly elections are expected to be held in early 2017.
This is the second time in seven months that the land has been denotified. The Parkash Singh Badal government had first denotified it through a resolution on March 10 2016 and passed a bill in the Punjab assembly the next day . At the time, the Haryana government had moved the SC which had ordered status quo till it gave its ruling.
This time, however, the Punjab government relied on the revenue powers with an IAS officer to make the denotification public. The powers state that the state government can carry out survey and settlement operations of each revenue estate and distribute land holdings.The government was in the process of issuing the notification from the office of Punjab financial commissioner (revenue) K B S Sidhu to 4,980 farmers. The decision to use executive powers was taken at a special Cabinet meeting on Tuesday .
In its March 2016 order, the SC had made the entire land its case property and warned Punjab police chief and chief secretary of action if the canal land was dug up or returned to farmers before its final decision. A five-judge bench of the SC on November 10 ruled that Punjab had no right to terminate water sharing agreements with its neighboring states, thereby invalidating the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004 passed by then Congress government of Captain Amarinder Singh. SC had also restored the decree passed by it in 2004 which had directed the central government to take control of the canal construction from the Punjab government.
“Last time, the SC was in the process of hearing the matter. Now, the ruling has come. The government can use its administrative power to release the land. We can say people of Punjab don't want the canal and don't want to share river waters,“ said a government official.
Maintain law and order: SC tells Punjab, Haryana
Even as Punjab denied any liability on its part to share water with Haryana, the Supreme Court stood firm by its decision to construct the Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal and urged the neighbouring States to maintain law and order at any cost.
A Bench of Justices P.C. Ghose and Amitava Roy raised concern about violence after reports that the Indian National Lok Dal, Haryana’s main opposition party, had asked its workers to gather on Thursday at Ambala and march inside Punjab to start digging the SYL canal.
The Supreme Court’s call for status quo in the inter-State water dispute came amidst Punjab’s affidavit that the Punjab Termination of Water Agreement Act of 2004 was still in force. It argued that a recent Supreme Court verdict that declared the 2004 Act as unconstitutional was only an opinion given by the court on a presidential reference and not a verdict as such to be complied as law.
Haryana, represented by senior advocate Shyam Divan, submitted that the verdict allowing the SYL canal to be built has to be executed.
The court asked Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, for the Centre, that the Union government should don the role of an arbitrator if both sides were willing to settle their dispute amicably.