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Verdicts on SYL issue have to be implemented: Supreme Court

  • In a stern message to Punjab, the Supreme Court made a statement that its verdict allowing construction of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal in Haryana and Punjab has to be implemented.

    A bench comprising of Justices PC Ghose and Amitava Roy also made clarifications that it would deliberate upon Punjab's contention as to whether the judgment of a five-judge constitution bench, which held its law unconstitutional, was binding. The bench said, "The decree passed by this court has to be given effect to."

    A five-judge bench, while answering the Presidential Reference on November 11, 2016, had held that the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act, 2004 was unconstitutional as it negated the effect of apex court judgments of 2002 and 2004.

    Senior advocate RS Suri, appearing on behalf of the Punjab government, said the five-judge bench verdict was not binding as it was given under its advisory jurisdiction and the Punjab law still stands. He also said that the decree passed by the apex court is not executable.

    The Punjab government told the bench that the verdict which held Punjab Termination of Agreement Act, 2004 as unconstitutional did not render the law invalid, as the apex court had only given an opinion on the Presidential Reference.

    The Parkash Singh Badal government told the court that the State Act took away the very basis of the 2002 decree that went in favor of construction of SYL canal.

    Mr Suri said Punjab was forced to pass the 2004 Act because of the water complaint filed by it  in January 2003 was not acted upon and the Centre never set up a water tribunal to address its grievances.

    However, the bench clarified that it would not revisit the facts and asked both the states to argue whether the verdicts including the one delivered on the Presidential Reference were binding or not.

    Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the Haryana government, opposed Punjab government's submission and said if one state has to challenge the validity of a law passed by another, then it would pose serious consequences for India's integrity. "If one state is forced to challenge the validity of a law passed by another state before the Supreme Court, then the Indian federation is not on a stable course," Mr Divan said.



    OUR TAKE

    The SYL canal link was conceptualized for effective allocation of water between the states. Both the governments were required to construct their portions within their territories. Haryana constructed its portion of the canal in its territory. Whereas Punjab after initial work, stopped the construction, leading to this entire spate of litigations. However, the present decision of the Supreme Court shall untangle all the doubts and chaos.


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