Expect Centre to play proactive role to bridge gap, says SC on Punjab-Haryana dispute on SYL canal

March 23, 2023

New Delhi, March 23 (Agency) : The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Central government to play a proactive role to find workable solutions between Punjab and Haryana in connection with Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal dispute.

A bench, headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, said it hopes that state governments endeavour to sit together to find a solution for a way forward and observed that the Centre should take a stand in the matter.

The bench, also comprising Justices Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Aravind Kumar, said: "We expect the endeavour of the states to sit together to still find a solution is the way forward and we call upon the states to hold meetings, not frequently at the highest political dispensation level so that at least there is some progress in the discussions. We expect the Union of India also to play a proactive role in the endeavour to bridge the gap."

Attorney General R. Venkataramani submitted that the matter appears to be not really moving further despite the best endeavour of the Centre. Haryana government counsel disputed the position about possibilities of any settlement unless Punjab moves from its stated position. He further flagged the issue that the reliance by the Punjab State on the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act (PTAA), 2004, stating that it is still in force is not sustainable in law as the reference was made which has been answered against Punjab by this court.

The bench, in its order, said: "We only once again emphasise that any settlement requires parties to move from their stated position and there has to be a give and take. We are also clear in our view that whatever else may be the defence of the state of Punjab, no reliance is permissible on the aforesaid Act once the reference is answered against it. We, however, record the submissions of the learned counsel for the state of Punjab that this is an advisory opinion."

The top court has scheduled the matter for further hearing on October 4 and sought an affidavit from the Punjab government within two months.

The Centre had informed the apex court that the Punjab government has refused to construct the remaining portion of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal, saying it does not have additional river waters to share with Haryana.

The report, on the two meetings held between the Chief Ministers of the two states in October last year and January this year, said the Punjab government has stressed that there is no need to construct the SYL canal because the state cannot share any water.

The top court was informed that during the meeting, held in January, Punjab was of the view that the water availability in the Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej system of rivers has reduced and there is no excess water for sharing with Haryana, and the Punjab government also raised a contention on law and order.

The Centre contended that even after the best efforts by it, there has been no agreement on the issue of construction of SYL among the two states in the meeting and the Ministry of Jal Shakti is making all efforts to bring the states together for an amicable solution.

The dispute between the two states rages on despite the apex court, in a decree issued in January 2002, directing Punjab to construct the SYL canal within a year. This decree came on a suit filed by Haryana in 1996. The apex court, in June 2004, reiterated its earlier decision while dismissing a suit filed by Punjab, seeking discharge of its obligation to construct the SYL Canal.


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